The suicide note shakes in the old man’s hands as he reads his words aloud. “It’s no one’s fault,” his voice quakes. “No one caused it.” In a powerful and unusual public service announcement, one after the next, men struggle to read through their own suicide notes. “Please move on. That’s all I want,” one man instructs, while another man apologizes for not being a good enough father. If the PSA sounds somber and grim, it is—until it’s suddenly not. The PSA later reveals that the men actually wrote the notes many years before. It’s a twist as clever as it is uplifting, encouraging men to talk more openly about their depression and how they moved beyond it.
What’s The Point Of It All?
The PSA drives home an important point. As an article at news site ATTN: puts it: “Depression and other mental health struggles are often erroneously thought of as women’s issues, despite the fact that this is far from the truth.” Despite the widespread assumptions, men are not less prone to depression—they’re just conditioned by society to not talk about it, experts argue. Depression in men shows up in a wide range of symptoms, including sleep problems, hopelessness, overeating, irritability and—sadly—suicide. Even worse, according to the ATTN: article, suicide “leads to far more male deaths than female deaths every year.”
A Digital Article report on the higher male suicide elaborates: “In the United States, where men are 3.6 times more likely to take their own lives, the most recent statistics reveal that about 117 people kill themselves daily and 92 are men.” The numbers aren’t any better in other countries, either. In Australia, for example, the suicide rate among men is even higher. Men are the leaders in virtually every category of early death, but the disproportion of men to women is the greatest with suicide. “Were the numbers reversed and women were committing suicide at between three and four times the rate of men, it seems likely research dollars would be allocated toward finding out why and doing something about it,” the story said.
The ATTN: article observes that the video “points to a disturbing problem: society often discourages men from talking about or displaying emotion, leading them to bottle up feelings that may sometimes have deadly consequences.” Male depression oftentimes goes undiagnosed for any number of reasons, ranging from avoiding professional care to recognizing depression in the first place. These reasons are as common as they are dangerous. “Depression can affect men and women differently. When depression occurs in men, it may be masked by unhealthy coping behaviors,” the Mayo Clinic said. “For a number of reasons, male depression often goes undiagnosed and can have devastating consequences when it goes untreated.” Interestingly, male depression “usually gets better with treatment”—a fact that isn’t generally true of women.
As the ATTN: story says, “Although the push to ‘man up’ and not talk about difficult emotions isn’t the only reason men are more likely to die of suicide, it’s definitely not helping.” Stigmas are a driving force in keeping men away from the treatment they otherwise desperately need. “Mental health is hard enough to talk about sometimes, given the stigma that still surrounds the illness,” the ATTN: article said. “There is still the wrong idea that depression is a character flaw, that it is always about something. But for men, it is doubly hard because we are not really encouraged, by ourselves mainly, to talk about being ill.”
It’s Never Too Late
The PSA, titled “Suicide Notes Talk Too Late,” was produced by the Movember Foundation, which is “the only global charity focused solely on men’s health, investing in programs to address prostate cancer, testicular cancer, mental health and suicide prevention.” If the Foundation sounds familiar, it’s because it’s the same group that encourages men to grow a mustache over 30 days every November (“Movember”) for prostate cancer awareness. According to a press release about the PSA, it’s not the only initiative the Foundation is behind: “Awareness and fundraising activities are run year-round by the Foundation, with the annual Movember campaign being globally recognized for its fun, disruptive approach to fundraising and getting men to take action for their health.”
The “Suicide Notes Talk Too Late” campaign is as simple as it is effective. It states, quite simply, that men need to talk. End of story. “Too many men are ‘toughing it out,’ not expressing their feelings and as a result, struggling alone with their issues,” the press release said. The video is meant to stir more than just conversation, though. It’s designed to compel people into action. And, in the case of suicide: inaction. “Suicide is a public health crisis among men that deserves attention, and it’s the mission of the Movember Foundation to make sure male suicide prevention becomes a global priority,” Mark Hedstrom, SVP of Global Operations at the Movember Foundation, said in a press release on the video. “Conversations between men strengthen their connections and improve their mental health, and we hope that this campaign…will inspire men to break their silence and talk.”
In many ways, the most effective part of the PSA isn’t even how it encourages men to speak up about their depression. “The Movember Foundation’s mental health and suicide prevention strategic approach—inspiring men to reach out, particularly during times of change and when things get tough, to take action sooner rather than later,” according to the press release, is the PSA’s greatest strength. If nothing else, hearing the distance that the men have put between themselves and their words (“I wrote this four years ago”; “That was 15 years ago”) isn’t just inspiring—it’s an inspired way of telling men that it’s never too late to start living again.
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