In 2 days time I will be doing a speech (more of a mini speech) that I have been wanting to do for a few years now. I have held back because it deals with suicide and male suppressed emotions, a hard topic. There is still a bit of a taboo around the subject of suicide, no one talks about male suppressed emotions and it is a topic that has great personal relevance for me.
I have decided to do it because I now realise that people listen and learn the best when they are feeling pain. That by pussy-footing around these subjects, by not talking about them we are not being forced to confront them and therefore deal with them. When I refer to ‘we’ I mean each of us individually, but also our families, communities and nations.
I am not certain that this culture of always having to feel good, to concentrate only on happiness is doing any of us any good. We will celebrate a person’s live instead of acknowledging the pain and the grief. Losing someone hurts. It hurts so that we can learn to love ourselves as well as others more intensely. If we celebrate when someones dies, how do we learn the difference between love and grief? We should celebrate someone’s life while they are with us and grieve when they die.
I have also retreated from this speech in the past because nerves have gotten the better of me. In answer to this I now take the approach that being nervous presents exactly the same physical symptoms as being excited. So those butterflies that I feel, the increased heart rate, the sweats, all of those things that tell me that I’m nervous, I am now taking as a sign that I am excited about giving this speech.
I am excited to have this opportunity. I am excited that finally I have the right words, the courage, the format and the forum to be able to deliver this speech. From it being frightening, the opportunity to do this speech is now for me, a privilege.
The level of male suicide in this country is an appalling travesty. We can talk all we like about how bad it is and we can talk all we can about depression, but we need to understand what is really behind all of this.
Researchers, scientists and mental health professionals can give us all of the theory and evidence they like. We can tell men how they ought and ought not behave but until we address the real issues and actually do something about it, as people, families, communities, cultures and nations, nothing is going to change and each year hundreds of New Zealand males will die by suicide.
The plan for me in the foreseeable future, is to continue to read, think and talk more about the dangers of Male Suppressed Emotions. To generate discussion and to change the world one conversation at a time.
I really do hope that I have the courage to see this through. If I happen to offend you along the way, I don’t apologise. This is not about your happiness or sensitivities because none of that is going to help anyway. This is also not about LGBT issues, its not about depression, or sexism, racism or PTSD. Its not about religion, human rights or political correctness. Its not about the latest research and understanding. None of that has offered any solutions (my brother committed suicide nearly 25 years ago and the rates of male suicide in New Zealand have hardly changed since then).
It doesn’t just affect those who have been ‘affected by suicide’. This is about all of us. Its about social and cultural expectations. Its about misconceptions around masculinity. Its about isolation and confusions. Its about those men who never have the courage to commit suicide but are forced to endure a ‘tortured’ life.
Its about, while it is socially acceptable (and often encouraged) to numb our emotions and torments, society still frowns upon those for whom even the numbing doesn’t provide a solution.
I don’t have the answers, I just know that something real needs to be done.