I came across an article on Facebook that a friend of mine shared which discussed the rise in suicides amongst those who work in trade professions in Australia. As you can imagine, the subjects involved are all men. It’s well known that men are the majority of suicide victims in the world today (though it’s highly questionable that anyone cares enough to do something about it) and that there are various theories and ideas about why men kill themselves.
The article opens with a short piece describing the thoughts of one Peter Bagnall as he sits at the edge of a rocky cliff, wondering whether or not a fall down to the rocks below would kill him and if not, how much of a mess it would cause. We’re given a brief description of his predicament and ultimately how Mr. Bagnall rationalizes his desire to continue living.
The article does a rather good job of listing explanations as to why the suicide rate is climbing in these professions such as low job security, very physically demanding work, workplace bullying (which resulted in the suicide of a 17-year old engineer after repeated assaults, including being burnt with a blowtorch), long hours, as well as problems outside of work like being divorced, separated, or having other relationship problems.
The latter few issues should come as no surprise to anyone who is intimately familiar with the issues men face in life. The traditionalist ideology is that the male works and brings home the bacon while the female gets to spend his hard-earned cash, his needs and their future financial security be damned and woe to any man who cannot afford her high price tag. If you can’t keep up, clearly you aren’t a real man and don’t understand how lucky you are to be married to this princess, this giver of life, this angel whose biologically inherited trait makes her that which you must worship when you wake up in the morning and before you go to sleep at night.
One issue in particular that stood out to me was that of workplace bullying. The article points out that the men who work these jobs typically have low or no education and are doing the best they can with what they have. Don’t misunderstand me as I don’t mean to say that not having an education automatically translates to guaranteed failure in life. Bill Gates would certainly have something to say about that. It definitely doesn’t help though as it does, unfortunately, limit your career options later on in life. When you grow up in poverty, you are taught to survive by whatever means necessary. Where men are concerned, this means fighting for what you want, both figuratively and literally. It’s why men find themselves sinking into the bottom of a bottle after a long day at work (society doesn’t care about you; no one wants to hear about your problems, you privileged sack of shit), it’s why men get into fights with their wives (you have a problem but don’t know how to express it constructively; she ends up being frightened and calls the police), it’s why men never see their kids (you’re too busy working; do they even know they have a father anymore?) What do we do when there is no help for these men, especially ones who aren’t even of voting age? See the excerpt and photo below.
The worst thing that we can do to our fellow men is treat them like they are less than human. Now, granted, there is such a thing as hazing and teasing in such professions. But there comes a point where such behaviour crosses the line and traverses from a bit of playful fun into criminal behaviour. Society already hates us, gentlemen. Remember that we are the murderer, the pedophile, the rapist, the wife beater, the deadbeat dad, the disposable tool that is to be used for as long as it will last and then spat out once we have outlived our usefulness. Why do we insist on treating each other in even worse ways?
The nether-ape (or alpha-male primitive, depending on your preference) in this situation is the inevitable result of a society that puts him down. He grows up thinking that in order to survive in this world, he must eschew basic human morality and that if he wants any meaning in the empty void his calls his life, he must seek out that white tiger, that Holy Grail, which will (hopefully) give him a pat on the back at the end of the day and say, “Good boy. Mommy’s proud of you.” This results in more trouble for him as I’ve outlined above; alcohol, gambling, fights at home, a domestic dispute that turns violent and he finds himself in a prison cell with little to no hope of redemption. Assuming he doesn’t end up in prison, he finds himself confronted with one option, the one which promises him sweet relief from his ills.
But there is hope. Some of the men in this article have found their way out of that dark place.
One Mark Jacobsen is interviewed, detailing how he slept on a suicide note for two months. He was going to do it because in his own words, “I just said how I didn’t feel worthwhile…I felt like I couldn’t get out the rut I was in. I couldn’t see an ending.”
What ultimately saved him was messaging his girlfriend saying, “I don’t think I can do this anymore”, which led to a conversation that in his own words was “like a weight off my shoulders”. He then started seeing a psychologist and began taking anti-depressants. Not only did he tear up the suicide note and flush it down the toilet, he went back to work (a year now, at time of publication), and began giving talks at a suicide prevention charity called Mates in Construction which helps other workers in need. Peter Bagnall, who I opened up this piece with, found work thanks to his brother a week after losing his old job, cut back on his drinking, and met his current girlfriend Lisa. They live together with her two young sons and he currently rents out the house on which he owns a mortgage. He has every intention of moving into that house one day. But he found his way back to the light.
We can help each other out as men in need, brothers who are struggling together. It doesn’t have to be this way, gentlemen. I implore you, as men, reach out to someone when you feel yourself moving towards that dark place. Don’t ever feel like you’re alone because we’re here for each other.