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Suicide in Men Is More Common Than We Think


suicide in men

We all got another example of what suicide in men looks like with the death of Robin Williams. One of the unfortunate things about his death and the depression that caused it is that they really aren’t that uncommon.

So let's talk about what suicide in men often really looks like. I had a client last week take some sleeping medication and then follow that up by drinking a bottle of gin (the large handle kind). He claims he wasn't trying to kill himself. Nevertheless, this is what suicide in men often looks like -- an emotionally driven poor decision.

He ended up in the emergency room with his blood alcohol content over 5x the legal limit (+.40), his liver and kidneys shutting down, and doctors saying he could die.

Not all suicide in men is violent, like by gunshot. I've had a number of men I've worked with over the years, intentionally or unintentionally, consumer alcohol or medications, or both, and nearly kill themselves.

The guy above survived. He still insists it wasn't his intent to kill himself. Nonetheless, his wife and kids could have been attending a funeral last week rather than sitting in my office talking about his poor choice of how to cope with how he was feeling.

Everyone who follows the NFL knows Junior Seau -- one of the toughest guys to play professional football. Sadly, in 2012 he became another example of suicide in men when he put a gun to his chest and killed himself.

Here’s what a couple of ex-NFL players had to say about Seau, suicide and men:

"One of the baddest dudes may have just killed himself ... Yeah, y'all real tough. Life after football is REAL ... grown ass men struggle emotionally ... young boys don't see the end ... it's coming. Life lesson today. RIP Seau," said former Saints and Browns offensive lineman LeCharles Bentley on Twitter after Seau's body was found. (Violent Sport Has Its Day of Reckoning)

"This notion of why he didn't seek help was real simple. He was too proud. He didn't have the mindset to seek help because all you're taught when you're playing football is to not show weakness. You have to feel like you're an invincible human being to play the game." Gary Plummer, former teammate of Seau. (Tragedies of the 1994 Chargers)

While suicide by men comes in many forms, but all share some common characteristics:

  • Typically Silent, often unknown until it's too late.
  • Driven by Pride and Shame which create an unwillingness to be seen as weak in acknowledging feelings and in asking for help in how to deal with them.
  • Response to Emotions that men don't know how to handle, so they check out.

One of the new risk factors for suicide in men is now middle age. While younger men used to be at the greatest risk, this has changed in the last few decades.

(Robin) Williams was also in a demographic that is particularly vulnerable to suicide . . . White, middle-aged men with medical problems are at the highest risk for suicide, he said. It's not entirely clear why that is, but Dost Ongur, an associate professor of psychiatry at Harvard Medical School and chief of the psychotic disorders division at McLean Hospital outside of Boston, said "this idea of control and virility and being able to deal with the world in a certain way – as that starts to slip away, there's often a sense of loss of control and threat to one's manhood, and that seems to be associated with higher rates of suicide."

Guys, listen to what LeCharles said above, "grown ass men struggle emotionally." It’s normal -- and many of us men need counseling to learn how to handle these emotions. I've had to do it, and so have many other guys who are better off for being strong and and brave enough to ask for help.

If you’re wrestling with suicidal thoughts, help is available 24 hours a day, 7 days a week at the National Suicide Prevention Hotline (800-273-8255). If you want to talk to someone face-to-face, there are counselors like me available locally and nationally who can help. The key is you have to ask for help.

Suicide in men doesn't end the pain -- it just puts it on other people. Just ask the friends and family of Seau or Williams about the pain they now feel. There are much better ways to make the pain go away.

Editor's Note: This post was originally published on May 19, 2012 and has been completely revamped and updated with new information.

Suicide & Men Resources


Hi Kurt, 
I have been using one of your other forums but in my last post i made comment as to how i feel my partners behaviour is more to do with depression than desire and i feel he is constantly finding ways to sabotage himself and self harm. when he goes on a bender he is taking his body so close to the edge he has brushed death more than once. the risks he takes sometimes are far from logical and he is prone to pushing further than the last time. i think he feels he is bad and shameful and so he does extreme things to make his feelings justifiable and reality. He talks about the shame of suicide and how people say how selfish it is but how it just a solution to never having to think again. yes it would hurt us but he would not know because he would be gone and the end is final. I do not think he would do the out and out suicide unless things where obviously at rock bottom but i think he toys with death all the time when he pushes his body and takes risks. he has hurt me very badly recently but i am almost his only family and the only person he can turn to at any time. i am caught between feeling that i should have in place some boundaries and some self respect and also in believing that without me standing by him he will push himself over the edge. i know i am not responsible for him and i know he must help himself but me and our children are his only safe base. i do love him and i want to be with him and for things to be well but i am hurt too. If he was not suffering this he is very intelligent, athletic, handsome and capable. i think sometimes having the tools in the box but not being equipped to use them is very upsetting for him. I'd be very grateful for your advice, thank you.
Posted @ Monday, May 21, 2012 6:17 AM by m
M, You're right in that you need to set some clear boundaries and that you're not responsible for him. Knowing this and doing this are two very different things, as you know. You need more advice/help than I can provide in this forum. Set-up a meeting with me by clicking on the services page in the header above (can be by phone/online), or find another professional counselor. Be careful not to underestimate what he could do -- that's the mistake the people in the article made -- and get some professional help. -Kurt
Posted @ Thursday, May 31, 2012 8:17 AM by Kurt Smith, MFT, AFC
Not all suicides are real. My uncle wad ruled a suicide but later my mom found out it was actually hate crime committed by my predator father. My brother, now lives w dad after trying too have sex w mom and me. And I think it only happened cuz after sleeping w Dad for a week dressed as a girl, became confused boy who got embarrassed about trying to have sex w mom and me. He has no future now dad wants me and I don't want to. I don't like sex Grandma says they have to keep stalking me and mom to keep informed but I know its to see if I ever tell this. Plus they didn't like my uncle for alth lifestyle
Posted @ Monday, February 25, 2013 5:06 PM by regan
In 2011 me and my husband parted ways on a trip he was supposedly coming to join me on ,We had to leave our house in Ohio due to financial issues ,So I was doing exactly as asked by him going to New York moving me and our children in a Shelter to find housing near his sister while he stayed behind in Ohio waiting on a transfer to NewYork and then comes the rumors and feelings in the (8) months he was back there and I was in New York ,He was spotted on the bus with a female and he called me everyday except for memorials day that year ,anyway when he came to New York (8) mos later may 2011 to December he was different he took it out on my son he raised since he was a baby and he did,nt get on his kids (the 4 we had together) and him and his sister kept picking on my son so much I was forced to jump in and let them know it,s enough I have his back ,so his thing was I treated my son like a baby ,he said things I never heard him say before like my son was,nt his son ,we all knew this fact but when you took me I had 2 children and they became his and we raised them up as such and then he would,nt come to live in the shelter with us (which was like a apartment style (housing)!!!and so all this discord went on all way up till may 2012 ,he stayed @ his sisters apartment and I stay in the shelter in Brooklyn and him in the Bronx and everything just came to and horrible end he told me he was ,nt calling me back ever over an argument we had and I told him it was a good ideal because @ this time he was acting like his sister,s husband instead of mine we was,nt in a good place then and the bombshell ,he was suppose to come get the kids and told me he was on his way and & a couple of hours later says he can,t make it he was called in to work ,come to find out he was in New Jersey where we met with another Female and it, s been hell every since he ,s been lying saying he ,s not with anyone all the while hiding behind phone calls saying he,s living in Pennsylvania with is brother when he,s been in Jersey all this time my family has seen him and he,s act as if he have,nt seen them or as if he,s someone else ,My daughters have even said they saw him up here in Ohio,Oh I had to come back to Ohio where it,s cheap for me and my children,s sake ,So fast forward to now he,s hiding behind phone numbers and states saying he has jobs he don, t have even said he don, t have a girlfriend ,when I know it,s someone ,and why I know I still love my husband but I won,t play second fiddle to no one!!! Not when we ,re together he,s always doing really good in life,soon as he,s with somebody else he,s doing bad don,t have nothing or any motivation to be somebody... And I don, t think it ,s a good ideal to tell him I love him and allow him to come home cause he,ll think I condone this behavior what am I to do I love him and his kids love him and we want him home but not with a scent of another women/1 foot in the door and 1 foot out the door !!! 
Posted @ Monday, August 25, 2014 2:30 PM by Latoya Trueblood
Latoya, You're right that you can't condone his behavior. No half in the door and half out. He either chooses all of you or none of you. You're worth that. -Kurt
Posted @ Tuesday, August 26, 2014 3:37 PM by Kurt Smith, LMFT, LPCC, AFC
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