Men taught to suppress emotions

According to a recent article in the Irish Examiner (Male teens four times more prone to suicide, May 21,) Prof Kevin Malone, author of a report on suicide claims there is a “highly significant” risk associated with older male teenagers.

Why is there such a discrepancy in the rates of suicide between men and women? From a young age, boys are taught not to cry. Such shows of emotion as fear, timidity or sadness are frowned upon. Boys learn, both consciously and unconsciously, to suppress their emotions. For girls, such expressions of emotion are encouraged and girls consequently feel more comfortable with their emotions and with expressing them.

The teenage years are difficult at the best of times. Children move away from the security of their parents and begin the tentative steps of forming their own independent personalities. Their interests, their values, even their sexuality can all be in the mix. Coupled with this, in their late teens they do what’s commonly regarded as the most difficult exam they will ever do in their lives, while trying to figure out what career they will follow. No wonder some teenagers, and especially boys, fall through the cracks. Many feel unable to articulate their difficulties or reach out for help. By the time these boys become young adults, the die is cast. A lifetime of “programming” can be very difficult to overcome. When a crisis occurs they feel unable to cope and suicide unfortunately is looked at as an option.

According to the report, almost half of all those who died had been diagnosed with major depression and “half of all suicide victims had reported a significant interpersonal conflict” in the fortnight before their death. These are major difficulties to be dealing with at such a young age.

However, the good news is that recovery is possible.

I know because I have been there and have come out the other side. We must let boys and young men know that it is sometimes okay to be not okay.

Thomas Roddy



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