I had been wanting to do a speech for a few years but I had always held back because it dealt 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 finally decided to do it because I came to 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. When someone dies we want to celebrate their life rather than acknowledging the pain and the grief that we are feeling. Losing someone hurts. It hurts so that we can learn to love ourselves and others more intensely. If we celebrate when someone 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.
We must be willing to lean into our fear and grief. To think those tough thoughts and to engage in those painful conversations. Feeling discomfort is a sign that you are probably doing the right thing, not just the quick, easy and fun thing. If its uncomfortable, its the right thing to do.
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. An unwillingness to allow discomfort into our own lives. An unwillingness to accept that we all play a part in what is happening all around us.
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 and that sometimes its going to feel uncomfortable.