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ESOTERIC CORNER - SUICIDE IN MEN

From time to time, we have to face this problem like men, or else watch people die because we wouldn't.

 

This is the most important men's health topic for Freemasons because most suicides are men.  It's a man's problem.  Many Masons are police officers, firefighters, and veterans who are higher risk, because they face intense, traumatic experiences and more often suffer with things like PTSD, traumatic brain injury, and other things that civilians don't see as often. So when we talk about men who commit suicide, we're talking about the Masonic population. There's no mystery why they're affected by this.

 

In 2023, about 50,000 men died by suicide, more than the total number of Masons in the state of Virginia. That's just one year. About 2,500 US men died in the Afghan war; the suicides from those that came home killed more than the Taliban did. Police are 1.5 times more likely to die by suicide than job-related causes: they're killing themselves more often than the suspects kill them. Firefighters are similar.  And as for veterans?   17 per day.

We have many members in the area that carry to protect themselves, but make no mistake - the most likely Mason-involved shooting statistically is going to be a man taking his own life.  Suicide is more common than anyone wants to admit, and so responsible men need to pay attention to it and know some basics. The chances are good that most people reading this know someone who is affected, and it's personal.

 

Now that I've got your attention, I want to use this article to talk about three things:

  • What to do if you're suicidal now, or have been in the past

  • What to do if your friend or brother is

  • Why we don't usually talk about these things

If you yourself are feeling suicidal

Many people have faced and overcome what you are now facing. You may feel disconnected and the main thing to do is to connect with people you trust and expand your support network. Check in with people. Tell them what you're going through. Be vulnerable, tell them what you really think, you have nothing further to lose.

 

There is a short number 988 that works from any phone, and goes right to a suicide crisis hotline. If no one close to you is available right now, call that, right now.

 

People who want to commit suicide will usually tell themselves that they don't matter, and that no one will miss them, and they're all wrong. Suicides wreck families, and leave a lot of people with guilt about what they could have or should have done. You can address your pain and spare a lot of it for other people if you stick around.

Supporting a Friend

If you suspect a brother is having suicidal thoughts, the most important thing you can do is listen. Understand that you cannot "fix" them, but that it is a huge help just for him to have someone who can share the burden.

    

1. Ask Directly About Suicide: It’s a myth that talking about suicide increases the risk. Asking directly about suicidal thoughts can provide relief and show that you care about their well-being. Don't be squeamish. Ask them directly. Don't beat around the bush. "Are you thinking about killing yourself?"

 

3. Encourage Professional Help: Suggest seeking help from a mental health professional, such as a therapist or counselor. Help them find those who can help.

 

4. Stay Connected: Regularly check in on your friend. Feeling connected can provide support they need to navigate through their crisis. It's the lonely and lost that are of most concern.

 

5. Know the Warning Signs: Be aware of warning signs such as increased drug & alcohol use, withdrawal from activities including Masonry, mood swings, and expressions of extreme cynicism & hopelessness.

Why we don't talk about it

Women get raised with their crazy gender expectations but guess what? The guys have theirs too. A big part of that is not crying, not showing weakness, keeping your own counsel. Projecting an aura of strength to other men so they won't think you're weak, so you won't be victimized. Many of us were raised similarly, we get it.   "Suck it up, buttercup", you know the drill.

 

How immature and foolish it would be though, to tell a brother who had severe pneumonia or a broken leg to "suck it up and carry on". He's not  weak, he's hurt. Guys who are going through intense emotional pain from traumatic situations they've been through, they're like that man lying in bed with the broken leg.  "Shake it off" is not the thing to say if you want to take brotherly love seriously.  Our lodges have "sick and distressed" lists and the "distressed" is there for a reason: the ethos of the institution recognizes that these men need support.  The sufferer needs to accept the help, the helper needs to give it, without moral judgment or any question of weakness. 

 

This is where your obligations to help, aid and assist - not to mention the obligation to keep certain secrets, really starts to bite and I am not talking about modes of recognition. Little boys worry about playground posturing: who's the strongest, who can take the punch without a quivering lip. Grown men identify and fix problems, and this is a really big one.  Members of the Grand Lodge have frequently told us at district leadership meetings that the world needs Freemasons and they don't even know how right they are.

Conclusion

 

I will leave you with this quote, and ask that as you read it, you consider how many of its sentiments closely mirror the closing charge in a Master Mason's lodge.

 

“A mind committed to compassion is like an overflowing reservoir - a constant source of energy, determination and kindness. This is like a seed; when cultivated, gives rise to many other good qualities, such as forgiveness, tolerance, inner strength and the confidence to overcome fear and insecurity. The compassionate mind is like an elixir; it is capable of transforming bad situation into beneficial ones. Therefore, we should not limit our expressions of love and compassion to our family and friends. Nor is the compassion only the responsibility of clergy, health care and social workers. It is the necessary business of every part of the human community.”  - His Holiness the Dalai Lama, May 15, 2014

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