What About Men in the Middle Years? A Conversation About Suicide

    Nine out of ten people who attempt suicide and survive will not go on to die by suicide at a later date.

    However, middle-aged men are more likely to die by suicide than almost any other age group. Men in the middle years—between the ages of 35 and 64—have a suicide rate that is more than double the national average. Males make up 50% of the population but nearly 80% of suicides.

    In 2021, 48,183 people in the US died by suicide. 38,358 of those were men. In 2022, both of those numbers increased by at least 2.3%. Wyoming had the most suicide deaths per capita in the US in 2021.

    Some say the “cowboy tough” attitude may be attributed to men not seeking the help they need. They are taught from youth to be strong and are more willing to take care of others rather than themselves. Many men conceal their suffering to avoid burdening others.

    Life stressors and health concerns are among the most common precipitating circumstances for suicides in middle-aged men. Living in a rural area such as Fremont County may also contribute likely due to easier access to firearms, drug and alcohol use, cultural factors, and poverty.

    Dr. Jeff Sung, Director of the Suicide Prevention Resource Center is asking hard questions in order to get to the root of the problem and find the answers to prevention.

    “If we’re going to reduce the overall number of suicide deaths in the United States, men in the middle years need our attention.”

    Jeff Sung, MD

    Offer culturally appropriate assistance for those who are struggling. Since so many of those who die by suicide do not have a mental health diagnosis, and prevailing male cultural expectations discourage help-seeking, we need to consider alternative ways to reach men at risk for suicide that are more attuned to their preferences. The SPRC report, Preventing Suicide among Men in the Middle Years recommends building coping skills and connectedness by creating peer-to-peer, community-based groups that can enhance self-worth, meaning in life, and a sense of purpose for men.

    Check-in on the men in your life. They probably won’t be the ones to reach out. Be a lifeline. The Sources of Strength wheel is typically used for young people but is also a great resource for anyone. See if you can help someone you love find their sources of strength.

    Remember…If someone has thoughts of suicide, offering support by listening and responding with empathy are very important ways to be helpful.

    Empathy statements are short phrases that help you establish a connection with the person you are talking to. They show that the other person is your sole focus and that you are taking them seriously in this conversation. Empathy helps create trust and mutual understanding. One example of an empathetic statement is, ‘It sounds like you’re feeling sad…I’m sorry you have been feeling this way, how can I help?’

    Another aspect of support is helping this person get the help they need. The resources are available but sometimes a person needs someone to help them reach out.

    For resources in Fremont County and nationwide, click here.

    We can all help prevent suicide. The Lifeline provides 24/7, free and confidential support for people in distress, prevention and crisis resources for you or your loved ones, and best practices for professionals in the United States.


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