Updated: May 3
"Boys do Cry". Opening an important conversation about suicide and what we can do to prevent it. Making sense of Mental Illness.
Ken Loftus has 20 yrs experience as a counsellor and Founded the Sunlight Centre. On episode #86 of the Thriving Minds podcast, Ken and I discuss what can be done to actively help youth and adults in suicidal distress.
Listen to the podcast here:
Ken was told stories of people who had asked for help and were told to “go to emergency department ”, or “Go home and go to your GP tomorrow”, and “You need a Mental Health Plan”, and knew more needed to be done. We are really fortunate that Ken has given us his time and expertise so we can openly discuss this important topic. (If you are struggling and have suicidal thoughts, please know you are not alone and help is available. Please contact any one of the following organisations in Australia are listed below, at the bottom of this post.
We are all normal and abnormal across our lifespans
"People may feel like they’re abnormal if they are told, “You have an anxiety disorder, you have a depressive disorder.” Talk with them a little bit about the fact that there are advantages to anxiety and that low moods might have meaning. It might not just be something that’s broken in you, it might be that your emotions are trying to tell you something. I think that makes many people feel less like they’re defective" .
Help someone today to light their spark
Meaningful message without words. - such a wonderful way to capture such a complex world and find small ways forward.
75% male and 25% female- Perhaps evolutionary psychology?
Males have consistently higher rates of suicide than females. Since 1907, the male age-standardised suicide rate has been consistently higher and more variable than the female rate. (Data collected from the Australian Institute of health and welfare. https://www.aihw.gov.au/suicide-self-harm-monitoring/data/suspected-deaths-by-suicide/data-from-suicide-registers.
Data for each year from 2016-2021 show that in Victoria (Coroners Court 2021, 2022a):
around three-quarters of suspected deaths by suicide are among males
the majority of suspected deaths by suicide for both males and females occur among those aged between 25 and 54
around two-thirds of suspected deaths by suicide occur in metropolitan locations.
From the "Boys Do Cry" campaign.
Ken discusses the possibility of this arising ~50, 000 yrs ago, where the men heading the tribe had to be physically strong, for the whole tribe to survive. Being seen as weak becomes a problem to our very survival and being the chief of the tribe.
Picture by Charles R. Knight - http://donglutsdinosaurs.com/knight-neanderthals/, Public Domain, https://commons.wikimedia.org/w/index.php?curid=18725346
This leads to a basic instinct - don't be seen as weak. Then somewhere along the way this was transferred to being that you are not allowed to emotionally weak either, that is a man crying became viewed as being weak. Ken discusses the observation that physical and emotional strength became confused with survival instincts and how this has led to " men don't cry". The moment, when men realised they are not that strong, but still wanted the top mates in the tribe, they started saying, I think the sun is a god using the expanding thinking parts of the brain.
From the strongest men being the chiefs of the tribes, it shifted to the witch doctors. As our cortex expanded and we started using our brain to become the chief of the tribe, this is when mental health problems started. It is how we use our enormous brain to manipulate, control and remain competitive. Changing evolution is no easy task.
By Photo Credit:Content Providers(s): CDC - This media comes from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention&Public Health Image Library (PHIL), with identification number #1322.
Listening and community connection are the keys and not trying to fix the problem.
It is Ok to talk with and share our feelings with our kids. As we create an environment of awareness. Parents being open and aware that they don't have the answers and that we are on the same evolutionary journey as our kids. Working with the brain and overcoming our instincts rather than avoiding it. Dealing with the anger rather than the trigger of the anger. Reality TV shows are the equivalent of modern gladiatorial centres, showing the most embarrassing aspects of people and making us feel that the people we watching on TV are worse off than we are. Suicide prevention means helping the community come together as a village again to help us raise our families and ourselves.