Today, President Obama announced an executive order to address gun violence in the United States. I was most interested in the investment of $500 million dollars to improve access to mental health care. According to the Center for Disease Control, 41,149 Americans committed suicide in 2013. Of those 41,149 deaths, 21,175 deaths were attributed to guns. Guns contribute to 51 percent of all suicides in America. Clearly, the U.S. needs a serious wake-up call about mental illness and how access to guns allows too many people to kill themselves.
Earlier today, I heard about the suicide death of a Hamtramck High School graduate. This young man, whom I did not know, used a gun to end his life. From what I can tell, he was only 19 years old, maybe 20. A former student wrote about the death on his Facebook wall and a comment was made to the effect that people often hide depression, so not to be judged by others. I know that I try hard to hide any truly dark emotions so not to frighten people away, as I have experienced. From what I can tell, this hiding is probably more prevalent among men, that women. While women are twice as likely as men to experience depression and three times more likely to attempt suicide, men are four times more likely to actually kill themselves. Of the 41,149 suicide deaths, 79 percent of those are men. That is 32,507 men. Of that number, 51 percent were caused by a firearm. A little simple math tells us that 16,578 men in 2013 killed themselves with a gun. This sounds like a crisis, most acutely a men's health crisis.
Why do so many people suffer? Why are 79 percent of all U.S. suicide deaths men? I suspect it is because people (in general) and men (in particular) do not want to be seen as weak. During his speech today, President Obama shed tears when he spoke about the children killed at Sandy Hook. Of course, his opposition mocked him, as if he shouldn't feel saddened by the thought of those slaughtered children.
People who have suffered from depression readily admit that talking about depression makes them feel weak. I remember a principal I had (red-headed female) who mocked a fellow teacher who was suffering from depression. I knew about the situation because I was the union rep. for the building and therefore in a position to know about this person's struggles. The principal said to me that this teacher needed to get over it because everyone gets blue from time to time. That stunned me. This is from a conversation on a FB wall earlier, someone wrote,
"I don't want to burden anyone with my nonsense. And though I don't know how anyone else feels, I think I can understand why someone would hide it from others. I didn't want to be called a wuss or told how weak I was and I damn for sure didn't want to push my problems onto anyone else, because the chance of being lonely for being 'crazy' or something."I get that because I have been there, but I think it's doubly hard for many men because they are supposed to be "strong" and tears are for women. This is the malarkey I heard growing up. Movies, music, television - real men don't cry.
It's time for real conversations and true concern and empathy for others. It's time for LOVE. As David Bowie sings in his collaboration with Queen, "Love's such an old-fashioned word/And love dares you to care for/The people living on the edge of the night/And love dares you to change our way of/Caring about ourselves.