From Here to Eternity: Stopping Male Stress and the Epidemic of Suicides

I have a personal, as well as professional, interest in male depression and suicide.  It began with my father who was born in Jacksonville, Florida December 17, 1906.  He was one of eight children whose parents had been born in Eastern Europe and had come to the United States in the late 1800s.  From what I heard growing up, he was emotionally sensitive, artistic and talented.  He wrote stories, poetry, and put on little plays for the family.

Unlike most of his brothers and sisters who either went into business or married business men, when he was 18 my father went to New York to become an actor.  At first things looked bright.  New York in the 1920s was full of glitter and glitz, a great place to be for a young man seeking fame and fortune.  But that ended in 1929 with the stock market crash and the beginning of the Great Depression.

It was in New York that he met my mother and they married on her birthday, October 5, 1934 after a somewhat stormy courtship.  Economically things were difficult, but they were together and ready to weather the storm.  When all money ran out they would invite friends and acquaintances to their small apartment and my father would put on a show—readings from Shakespeare, his own poetry, or short stories.  The price of admission was a can of food.

But as the economic situation worsened so did his mood.  He would snap at my mother.  Small things irritated him.  How she cooked, cleaned their apartment, or made the bed became points of discord.  Recalling the times, my mother told me, “He was always on edge.  I couldn’t seem to do anything right.  No matter how much I tried to support him and let him know I cared, he still got mad at me.”

There were increasingly heated arguments and fights.  He would accuse her of being interested in other men and “sleeping around.”  She would proclaim her innocence and feel hurt.  They would make up, make love, and everything would seem all right.  And they would be all right, until the next time.  There was always a next time. 

My mother was always able to find work as a secretary.  She had excellent skills and even in bad times people needed her talents and experience.  However, there weren’t a lot of people looking for my father’s skills and talents.  Not feeling comfortable at home, my father spent more and more time away.  “He’s here, then he’s gone,” my mother would say.  “Sometimes he wouldn’t come home until early the next morning.”

His brothers tried to convince them to come home to Florida and sell insurance like they were doing.  My father laughed.  “I’d rather die first.”   It was a prophetic outburst.  He nearly did die.  Most of what I know about his life I learned from my mother and the journals that he kept in the last three years before he tried to kill himself.

Kay Redfield Jamison, an expert on mood disorders, uses an analogy from the animal kingdom to describe the difference ways men and women react to the stresses of life that can lead to depression and suicide.  “Young male elephants go out and they are quite solitary,” she observed. “The only times males get together is during the breeding period in an adversarial role. They’re not talking about anything, they’re competing.

“Conversely, the female elephants are drawn together and are constantly communicating with each other.  Female elephants have a system set up if one is in distress,” she continues, “and they are more likely to be there to serve and help one another.  Like male elephants in an adversarial role, human men have an ‘irritability’ that is ‘part and parcel’ of depression,” she says.  “It’s one of the diagnostic criteria for depression and mania, more common than not,” she explained. “Emotions get so ratcheted up, it’s often we see men with short-tempered fuses. It makes depression difficult for others to be around.”

This was certainly true of my father.  He had a long history of irritability, anger, and depression, and male stress but it was the crashing economy that sent him over the edge.  Here were the last journal entries before he tried to kill himself:

“June 4th: 

               Your flesh crawls, your scalp wrinkles when you look around and see good writers, established writers, writers with credits a block long, unable to sell, unable to find work,  Yes, it’s enough to make anyone, blanch, turn pale and sicken.

 “August 15th:

              Faster, faster, faster, I walk.  I plug away looking for work, anything to support my family.  I try, try, try, try, try.  I always try and never stop.

“November 8th:

              A hundred failures, an endless number of failures, until now, my confidence, my hope, my belief in myself, has run completely out.  Middle aged, I stand and gaze ahead, numb, confused, and desperately worried.  All around me I see the young in spirit, the young in heart, with ten times my confidence, twice my youth, ten times my fervor, twice my education. 

             I see them all, a whole army of them, battering at the same doors I’m battering, trying in the same field I’m trying.  Yes, on a Sunday morning in early November, my hope and my life stream are both running desperately low, so low, so stagnant, that I hold my breath in fear, believing that the dark, blank curtain is about to descend.”

Six days after his November 8th entry, my father tried to kill himself.  Though he survived physically, emotionally he was never again the same.  For nearly 40 years I’ve treated more and more men who are facing similar stresses to those my father experienced.  The economic conditions and social dislocations that contributed to his feelings of shame and hopelessness continue to weigh heavily on men today.

Suicide is Predominantly a Male Response to Stress

Although suicide impacts women as well as men, it is predominantly a male response to overwhelming stress.  In my book, Male vs. Female Depression: Why Men Act Out and Women Act In I reported on a major research study that concluded “Women seek help—men die.” The study found that 75% of those who sought professional help at a suicide prevention program were female. Conversely 75% of those who committed suicide in the same year were male.

These findings are corroborated by men’s health expert, Will Courtenay, Ph.D. in his book, Dying to be Men: Psychosocial, Environmental, and Biobehavioral Directions in Promoting the Health of Men and Boys (April, 2011, Routledge). Courtenay reports the following suicide and death rates (per 100,000 U.S. population) from the National Center for Disease Control, for males and females in various age groups:

We see that the suicide rate for young men is more than 4 times the rate for young women and the suicide rate for after retirement is 6 to 17 times the rate for women of the same age. Clearly men are at great risk and as populations age throughout the world, more men are likely to give up hope and kill themselves.

Age Group

Male Rate

Female Rate

Male/Female Ratio

15-19

10.9

2.7

4.0

20-24

21.4

4.0

5.4

25-29

19.5

4.7

4.2

30-34

18.3

5.2

3.5

35-44

23.9

6.8

3.5

45-54

25.8

8.8

2.9

55-64

21.4

7.0

3.8

65-74

21.5

3.4

6.3

75-84

27.3

3.9

7.0

85+

38.6

2.2

17.5

 

The Mancession

But many men are now losing their jobs before retirement.  A recent editorial in the British Journal of Psychiatry indicates that depression rates in men are likely to increase due to the socioeconomic changes going on in the world. The study’s principle author Boadie Dunlop, M.D., from Emory University School of Medicine in Atlanta writes, “Compared to women, many men attach a great importance to their roles as providers and protectors of their families. Failure to fulfill the role of breadwinner is associated with greater depression and marital conflict.”

Research shows that since the beginning of the recession in 2007, roughly 75 percent of the jobs lost in the United States were held by men. On the other hand, women are increasingly becoming the primary household earners with 22 percent of wives earning more than their husbands in 2007, versus only 4 percent in 1970. Unfortunately, there is little reason for anyone to believe that traditional male jobs will return in significant numbers even if the economy fully recovers.  As depression increases, so too will suicide.

Getting Help and Support

The International Association of Suicide Prevention (IASP) has designated September 10, 2012, World Suicide Prevention Day.  On their site you can get good information on what people are doing all over the world to prevent suicide and you can learn what you can do to support their activities.  In support of these activities I’m offering  my new book, MenAlive: Stop Killer Stress with Simple Energy Healing Tools, which details my own experiences helping people deal with depression in their lives.  For everyone who orders a book by September 10, 2012, I will donate 50% of the profits to IASP.  For everyone who orders anytime during the month of September, I’ll donate 30% of the profits to IASP.

Working together we can make a difference.  If you’d like to be part of our campaign to save the lives of a million men, and to learn how to stop male stress you can learn more HERE.

What has been your experience with male suicide?  What resources do you have to share?  Together we heal.

Photo Credit:  http://www.flickr.com/photos/helzerman/1234587061/sizes/z/in/photostream/

Men and Stress: Saving Your Sanity and the Only Brain You’ll Ever Have

Although we have known for some time that stress can cause damage to the heart, the gastrointestinal tract, and other parts of the body, we have recently learned that stress can actually damage the brain.  J. Douglas Bremner, M.D., is Director of Mental Health Research at the Atlanta Veterans Administration Medical Center, and is editor of Trauma, Memory, and Dissociation and Stress Disorder.  In Bremner’s book Does Stress Damage the Brain? he explains, “Research in only the past decade or so has shown that extreme stress has effects on the brain that last throughout the lifespan.”

As a result many of those emotional distresses that we have, in the past, viewed as purely psychological, may be the result of physical damage to the brain.  “A group of psychiatric disorders related to stress, what I call trauma-spectrum disorders,” says Bremner, “could share in common a basis in brain abnormalities that are caused by stress.”

Bremner continues saying that “Trauma-spectrum disorders are those that are known to be linked to stress, including post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD), dissociative disorders, borderline personality disorders, adjustment disorder, depression, and anxiety.”  I would include the Irritable Male Syndrome as another one of these trauma-spectrum disorders.

Trauma-spectrum Disorders and Gender:  Why Women Cry and Men Run Away 

One of Dr. Bremner’s experiments helps us understand the difference between the way men and women experience these disorders.  He gathered a group of former depression patients.  With their permission, he gave them a beverage that was spiked with an amino acid that blocks the brain’s ability to absorb serotonin, the neurotransmitter that allows us to feel upbeat and happy.

Using the new brain scan techniques he took pictures of the subject’s brains to see if he could pinpoint the areas that were associated with depression. If we knew the areas of the brain associated with depression, he reasoned then we could come up with better medications and treatment approaches.  In looking at the color brain scans he was able to show that a loss of serotonin affects all three major areas of the brain.

What I found even more fascinating were the gender specific differences in the way men and women reacted to the potion that blocked the effects of the serotonin.  Typical of the males was John, a middle-aged businessman who had fully recovered from a bout of depression, thanks to a combination of psychotherapy and Prozac. Within minutes of drinking the brew, however, “He wanted to escape to a bar across the street,” recalls Bremner. “He didn’t express sadness … he didn’t really express anything. He just wanted to go to Larry’s Lounge.”  Contrast John’s response with that of female subjects like Sue, a mother of two in her mid-thirties. After taking the cocktail, “She began to cry and express her sadness over the loss of her father two years ago,” recalls Bremmer. “She was overwhelmed by her emotions.”

So we see a very real contrast in the ways men and women respond to a loss of the brain chemicals that keep our emotions in a healthy balance.  Men tend to withdraw and go for the alcohol to prevent us from feeling our pain.  Women tend to share their emotions with others.  I have found that chronic irritability is one of the principal ways men withdraw, rather than dealing directly with our feelings.

 Men and Stress:  What’s a Man to Do?

Men and stress can be a killer combination.  We can make decisions that help eliminate or decrease the stress response in life by once again paying attention to the physical, emotional, and chemical components of our health. Physical stressors include accidents, physical inactivity, and changes in temperature. Chemical stressors include sugar, high fat foods, cigarettes, alcohol, and toxic work or environment. Emotional stressors include fear, anger, guilt, depression, anxiety, and loneliness.

When we get out of balance with our lives, many of us overload on all aspects of our stress capacity, stopping our regular exercise regimen, eating poorly, and navigating family get-togethers or loneliness. Come up with a plan for how you can circumvent illness by planning ahead.

Make sure you are able to identify when your stress levels are high, and have some ways of interrupting the process. An increased heart rate, sweat, tense muscles, irritability, moodiness and dilated pupils are clear signs of fight or flight and an increased stress response.

When you notice these signs stop what you’re doing and check in with yourself for at least five minutes. Check in and see if HALT is a problem.  These letters stand for hungry, angry, lonely, tired.  These are some of the more common ways that stress manifests.  Ways to re-set the system are going for a brisk walk, taking a few deep breaths, visualizing yourself somewhere refreshing, relaxing tight muscles, and shifting your perception to a different space. This does not have to be a long task. Just check in and re-set every hour until you get the hang of it and feel some shift in your overall tension pattern.

You can practice using the energy healing tools I describe in my book, MenAlive:  Stop Killer Stress with Simple Energy Healing ToolsLearn about Earthing, Heart Coherence, Attachment Love, and Emotional Freedom Techniques (Also known as EFT or Tapping).  These simple tools combat stress in men and the women who love them.  You can get your brain back in balance and allow you to more effectively deal with the ups and downs of life without becoming overwhelmed or stressed out.

Please share your story or experience.

Together we heal.

Photo credit:  http://www.flickr.com/photos/digitalshotgun/454380458/


The Crisis Enters Year Five: Are We Ready to Address the Real Problem?

According to Richard D. Wolff, Professor of Economics Emeritus, University of Massachusetts, Amherst and Visiting Professor in the Graduate Program in International Affairs of the New School University, New York City, “The current capitalist global crisis began with the severe contraction in the housing markets in mid-2007. Therefore welcome to Year Five.  This inventory of where things stand may begin with the good news: the major banks, the stock market, and corporate profits have largely or completely ‘recovered’ from the lows they reached early in 2009. The US dollar has fallen sharply against many currencies of countries with which the US trades and that has enabled US exports to rebound from their crisis lows.

“However, the bad news is what prevails notwithstanding the political and media hypes about ‘recovery.’ The most widely cited unemployment rate remains at 9 % for workers without jobs but looking. If instead we use the more indicative U-6 unemployment statistic of the US Labor Department’s Bureau of Labor Statistics, then the rate is 15%.  The latter rate counts also those who want full-time but can only find part-time work and those who want work but have given up looking. One in six members of the US labor force brings home little or no money, burdening family and friends, using up savings, cutting back on spending, etc.”

Men Are Hit Particularly Hard

We know that although both women and men are impacted by unemployment, men are particularly vulnerable to the demoralization, stress, and depression which often go with our feeling that we are not taking care of our families adequately.  According to Boadie W. Dunlop, M.D. Emory University School of Medicine in Atlanta, “Men in the changing economy will face the same risks for depression that women faced in older economies: trapped in a family role from which they cannot escape because of an inability to find employment.”

Research shows that since the beginning of the recession in 2007, roughly 75 percent of the jobs lost in the United States were held by men. On the other hand, women are increasingly becoming the primary household earners with 22 percent of wives earning more than their husbands in 2007, versus only 4 percent in 1970. Unfortunately, there is little reason for anyone to believe that traditional male jobs will return in significant numbers even if the economy fully recovers.

“The recent recession afflicting Western economies serves as a harbinger of the economic future for men, especially for those with lower levels of education,” says Dunlop. “Dubbed by some the ‘Mancession’, the economic downturn has hit men particularly hard, because of its disproportionate effect on traditional male industries, such as construction and manufacturing, although of course working women have also been affected.”

Getting to the Core of the Problem

We all feel the burden of an economic system that favors the 1% at the expense of the 99%.  As the hype for next presidential election gets underway, we need to remember that both parties have increasingly become dominated by the rich, though Republicans seem more hell bent on insuring that the rich get richer.

Wolff points out, “Neither party can shake off its utter dependence now on corporate and rich citizens’ monies for all their financial sustenance. Therefore neither party imagines, let alone explores, alternatives to massive deficits and debts. After all, government deficits and debts mean (a) the government is not taxing corporations and the rich, and (b) the government is instead borrowing from them and paying them interest.  So the two parties quibble over how much to cut which government jobs and public services.”

We need a new model for how we run our business life.  Up to now, the model driving our economies depended on perpetual growth, requiring ever more resources and investments. This model has inherent flaws. It leads to unjust societies, highly skewed and exploitative economies, and devastated ecosystems. The business model that defines corporate environmental responsibility in terms of size of investment, and defines corporate success as increased shareholder value and grandiose executive compensation, must be replaced. The new economy must be more effective and more collaborative.  It must become truly sustainable, introducing innovations that permit less investment, generate more revenues, and build the strengths of a community and builds up social capital – not debt.

Moving Toward a Sustainable “Blue” Economy

Gunter Pauli an inveterate entrepreneur whose scope of initiatives span business, culture, science, and education.  In his book, The Blue Economy:  10 Years, 100 Innovations, 100 Million Jobs, he says, “the current global crisis highlights the need for an framework of economic development that is based on fundamental innovation and that will generate desperately needed jobs while sustainably addressing the needs of the earth and all its citizens.”

 “This ‘blue’ approach,” says Pauli, “is not only viable, it has already begun to take root. Four years of research has identified a portfolio of 100 innovations including whole systems models that have the potential to generate as many as 100 million jobs worldwide over the next 10 years.”  This is the business framework that will drive the new Blue Economy. This is the framework that will seek out and define true sustainability for all living species on Earth.

What do you think?  Are we ready to move beyond capitalism towards a system of economic democracy?  I’d like to hear from you.

 

MenAlive Partner / Affiliate Program

My goal over the last 40 years has been to help men, and the women who love them, to live well throughout their lives.  Most of us know that men die sooner and live sicker than women, but I was surprised by the research from the University of Michigan showing that “if we could reduce men’s death rate to the same level as women’s we would do more good than curing cancer.”  Specifically it showed that we could save the lives of 330,000 men a year.  That seemed to me a worthy goal, so I made a commitment to do everything I could to Keep a Million Men Alive (KAMMA) over the next three years.

If you resonate with this goal, I’d like you to join me in the MenAlive Partnership Program.

If life were like a baseball game, we’re losing men at three places along the base paths.  Many of our young men don’t even make it to  first base.  Too many mid-life men fail to make the turn at second and end up alone in left field.  Many older men don’t make it around third and end up dead in the dugout.   Like a successful baseball game, my goal is to help men get around all three bases, make it home, and then help coach others.

My latest book, MenAlive:  Stop Killer Stress with Simple Energy Healing Tools, has recently been published and brings together the work I have been doing for more than four decades.  I strongly believe that the information it contains can help keep men alive and well and I want to get the book to a million men and their families.  I also have put together my best e-books, white papers, and audio programs into a Diamond package to supplement the material in the book.

I can’t reach a million men by myself.  Here’s where you come in.  We all have our own social networks of friends, colleagues, and followers. If you would like to join me and become a KAMMA partner, I believe we can make a real difference in the world.  I’m not doing this to get rich.  I just want to help men and their families and make a living to keep my own family alive and well.  I assume you would like that as well.

Read my post about Why I’d Rather Partner with You on my Book than with a Big Publisher.

You may know about “affiliate” programs, like Amazon where you encourage people in your network to buy a product and you receive a subsidiary payment.  I’d rather have partners than affiliates, so my plan is to share revenues with you in a more equal way.  I’ll keep 1/3 for me.  1/3 will go to my marketing partner Ian Fitzpatrick to organize and run the program.  And 1/3 will go to you for all sales related to the project.  Sign up and you’ll receive resources and tools to assist you in your effort.

For now we’re selling the book for $19.95  (the cost to print it and have it shipped to me is $6), so the net profit on the book is basically $14.  Split three ways, we’d each get $4.67.  So for every 100 we get in the hands of a family who needs it, we would earn $467.  My complete set of support materials to supplement the book is $159, so we’d each get $53 per sale or $5300 for each 100 we sold.

I feel confident that the materials I’ve developed can help save lives.  But I know that other people have life-saving resources as well.  We’ll also be reaching out and finding other books and support materials that can make a significant contribution to keeping a million men alive.

If you know of ones that you feel are valuable, please tell us.  I believe this project is a win/win/win.  The biggest win is helping to save the lives of a million men and enhance the lives of their families.  I win by getting the satisfaction of helping others and bringing in a  steady income stream to support me and my family and you win in the same way.

So, if that makes sense to you, here’s how to sign up.  Ian can answer questions.  You can email him at Ian@MenAlive.com.  He will send you information to make it easy to let others know about what we’re doing.

Thanks for joining me in the KAMMA partnership.

Best wishes,

Jed

Why I’d Rather Partner with You on My Book Than With a Big Publisher

I’m pleased to announce that my 10th book, MenAlive:  Stop Killer Stress with Simple Energy Healing Tools will be available on Sunday July 1st!  My previous books have been done with major publishers.  The advantage of publishing with a big company is that they offer an “advance” on royalties to help cover the costs of cutting back on my counseling practice for the two years it takes to write a book and get it out in the world.  They also pay all the costs to create the book, i.e. editing, formatting, cover design, and printing.  Plus, they promote the book and get it in the book stores.  They also take the risk of putting out a book that only a few people will want, thus losing the money they invest.

For doing all of that, they take most of the money on the sales generated.  On a $20 book, I may get $1.50 to $2.00 for each book sold if I publish with a big publisher.

But times are changing.  Publishers are doing less and less for writers and we are doing more and more for ourselves, but the publishers still take a lot of the profits.

So, I decided to reach out to you and ask my tribe to help support my book.  Many of you gave me some of the initial money I needed to do a good edit and I put up the rest of the money to have a nice cover designed, have the book formatted, printed, and shipped.

With your help, we did it!  Starting Sunday, people can get the book and you have some options of where to order.  Each option means a different amount that comes to me, hopefully to help pay back some of what it cost to create the book.  I don’t write in order to get rich or even make much money.  I write because I have a passion to help people.

MenAlive is the culmination of my work up to now and I’m convinced it can help save millions of lives. In fact, I’ve made a commitment to do what I can to get the book into the hands of a million men.  I know if they use the tools in the book they will reduce stress and ultimately live longer and more healthy lives.  And I’m hoping you’ll want to help me do it.

So, I’m more concerned about getting the book in your hands than how much money I make on it.  But I wanted to let you know the financial aspects of publishing.

If you buy the book in your local bookstore (and I support our independent local bookstores), I’ll make $4.00 on each book you buy.

If you buy the book on Amazon, I’ll make $6.00.

If you buy the book directly from me, I’ll make $12.00.  Plus, I’ll send you a personally autographed copy.  With the money I make I’ll be able to stay afloat and reach out to more people.

As a special treat if you are on my email list, I will send out a special link on Sunday where I’m giving out 250 free copies of the book. All I ask in return is that you help share the word of the launch via your social media.

So make a choice that works for you, but help me get this book out to the people who need it.  Once you’ve read it, please give me a “star” rating on Amazon.  I hope to get 100 “5 star” ratings.  Also if you choose, leave a comment about the value MenAlive has made in your life.  That allows people who don’t know my work to feel more inclined to take the risk to read the book.

A big publisher might publish 300 or 400 books a year.  They are not as committed as we are to getting MenAlive in the hands of a million men.  Thank you for helping me to help men and the women who love them.  Together we can save lives and bring about a better world.

MenAlive Updates

Friends,

I’m excited to be sharing my recent book, MenAlive:  Stop Killer Stress with Simple Energy Healing Tools, with you.

In the book I describe the ways in which stress contributes to many problems men, and the women who love them, face today including:  Depression, chronic pain, male menopause, and irritable male syndrome.  I describe four energy healing tools that you can learn to use to heal these and other problems.  The four tools I have found most effective are Earthing, Heart Coherence, Attachment Love, and Emotional Freedom Techniques (EFT).

The field is changing rapidly and I want to keep you updated on the latest information.  Here I’ll be posting new findings that you can put into practice.  Its also where you can share your own experiences.

A comprehensive review of the health implications of Earthing has been published in The Journal of Environmental and Public Health.  You can read it here:

http://www.hindawi.com/journals/jeph/2012/291541/

I’ll be posting other information on this emerging field of Energy Healing.  Stay tuned.

Jed