Sometimes the Pressure for Guys is Too Much

In a recent BBC film, Roman Kemp explored how mental health problems can be related to ideas about masculinity.  He understands that the causes of suicide are always complex and never related to one single issue.

However, he states, “No matter what, there is still an idea that the man is the breadwinner of the family. The man is the person that has to have a family, has to find the ‘perfect person’ and be happy with them, have kids and help them financially …  And sometimes that pressure for guys is too much.”

Add to that, the pandemic – and the financial toll that comes with it.  Roman states that Covid has an impact as well.

“The pandemic has just accelerated everything,” he says. “It’s accelerated people’s depression, anxiety, fears. We’re living in a world now where it’s literally like ‘fear porn’ – how can the world be scared next?”

“And for someone who is already going through something mentally, when you start hearing about job losses, people not even being able to put food on the plate for their family, that’s a serious thing that – especially for guys – is a tough, tough thing to take.”

Roman stated that guys suffer hugely with thinking they’re not where they should be in their life.  They feel they can’t take a pause for themselves.

Roman visited organizations across the UK that are trying to help young men struggling with mental illnesses, like an emergency street triage team in Nottingham who dispatch mental health workers to people in crisis and a charity called Lighthouse, in Belfast, that helps boys and young men who’ve been affected by suicide.

“You’ve got light at the end of the tunnel in terms of groups and charities starting to make this movement happen,” he says.

But Roman also believes the government needs to take mental health issues more seriously.

“Not enough is being done,” he says. “To not have the support in place for kids, in my opinion, is disgraceful. There’s not enough budget there. There’s not enough onus put on it.”

https://www.bbc.co.uk/bbcthree/article/13c2fd0b-2a24-4afa-aff5-48f4249df784

It is often very challenging for men to talk about their experiences and seek support. Asking for help is not a sign of weakness. 

Governments everywhere, need to pause, listen, and put our hard-earned money toward helping those who suffer from mental illnesses.

In 2019, men died by suicide 3.63x more often than womenhttps://afsp.org/suicide-statistics/

White males accounted for 69.38% of suicide deaths in 2019. https://afsp.org/suicide-statistics/

Biomarkers for Suicide

I’ve mentioned in previous blogs that many mental disorders have a genetic link.  There are many people who suffer from mental illnesses.  In fact, at least a quarter of our population in the US has some type of mental health condition.  Mental illness puts a person at a higher risk of suicidal ideation, and it’s been reported that a large percentage of those suffering from suicidal ideation also have some type of mental disorder.  However, it has also come to the attention of researchers that most of those who have mental health disorders do not have suicidal ideation or attempt suicide.

Confusing?  In other words, many people suffer from mental health disorders, but most of these people don’t suffer from suicidal ideation.  On the flip side, many of the people who attempt or complete suicide do have a mental health disorder. 

Suicide is extremely complex, and there are many factors involved.  Suicidal thoughts have many causes. Most often, suicidal thoughts are the result of feeling like you can’t cope when you’re faced with what seems to be an overwhelming life situation. If you don’t have hope for the future, you may mistakenly think suicide is a solution. You may experience a sort of tunnel vision, where in the middle of a crisis you believe suicide is the only way out.  Some refer to this as a suicidal trance.

Scientists are also theorizing that there is a genetic link to suicide. Suicidal ideation is now being studied as a disorder in and of itself.  People who complete suicide or who have suicidal thoughts or behavior are more likely to have a family history of suicide.  However, it’s important to understand that a family history is only one possible contributor; not a projection.  Environmental causes, societal challenges, brain inflammation, genetics, and possible biomarkers are all being studied, and thought to play a part.

Discoveries have now shown that neuroinflammation is a potential link, and that certain biomarkers can predict the onset of suicidal behaviors.  The research for biomarkers is still in the early stages, but it’s there. 

Biomarkers would suggest a biological indicator (predisposition)  for suicide.  If there are biomarkers for suicide, this would suggest that there may be a treatment in the future to help those suffering from suicidal ideation and suicide.  Again, much more funding is necessary to continue with this research.

https://www.mayoclinic.org/diseases-conditions/suicide/symptoms-causes/syc-20378048

What Neurobiology Can Tell Us About Suicide

LET’S TALK ABOUT THE CHILDREN

If you could increase your child’s self-esteem and create a positive self image for less than 10 minutes A-day at little to no cost would you do it?
Of course you say .
THEN WHY AREN’T WE ???

Let’s start with elementary and middle schools and include social and emotional learning into the classroom .
It’s too expensive , it takes too much time, teacher’s are overworked we can’t add on .

We teach children in kindergarten and first grade about the weather. It takes 5 mins a day. Why can’t we have 5 mins to teach and explore emotions? Instead of weather board, feelings board etc..

Second and third graders can read books on feelings. Spelling words could include an emotion. Can they spell it ? Use it in a sentence?

Art class instead of saying draw, paint, use modeling clay to make a flower, how about making it an emotion or social creation.

Music can be discussion of sounds that make you feel happy, sad etc.. Gym class can show children ways to creatively release emotions of frustration or anger in a safe manner.

These are very basic , simple ideas. They don’t take much time, money or planning to implement. Teachers have all experienced a variety of emotions throughout their lives. We don’t need to teach the teachers to feel.

A state of mental, emotional, and cognitive health can impact perceptions, choices and actions affecting wellness and functioning.

Studies have shown the following:

Developmentally appropriate, student-centered education materials should be integrated into the curriculum of all K-12 classes. The content of these age-appropriate materials should include the importance of safe and healthy choices and coping strategies focused on resiliency building, and how to recognize risk factors and warning signs of mental health conditions and suicide in oneself and others. The content shall also include help-seeking strategies for oneself or others and how to engage school resources and refer friends for help.

Access to school-employed mental health resources and access to school-based mental health supports directly improves students’ physical and psychological safety, academic performance, cognitive performance and learning, and social/emotional development. This training ensures that mental health resources are properly and effectively infused into the learning environment. These professionals can support both instructional leaders’ and teachers’ abilities to provide a safe school setting and the optimum conditions for teaching and learning. Having these professionals as integrated members of the school staff empowers principals and administrators to more efficiently and effectively deploy resources, ensure coordination of resources, evaluate their effectiveness, and adjust supports to meet the dynamic needs of their student populations. Improving access also allows for enhanced collaboration with community providers to meet the more intense or clinical needs of students.

It’s too important not to be done. Let’s normalize mental health for everyone and start at the very beginning.

SO AGAIN I ASK WHY AREN’T WE???

Let’s normalize and de-stigmatize mental health

THE AMERICAN PSYCHIATRIC ASSOCIATION reports “50 percent of mental illness begins at age 14, and three quarters begin by age 24.”

THE MAYO CLINIC STUDY reports The deadliness of attempted suicide has been dramatically underestimated.

This study not only demonstrates that suicide prevention efforts should begin before a first suicide attempt, but also supports prevention as being the responsibility of all medical providers, not just mental health professionals.

Let’s start with the old cliché s
It’s always best to start at the beginning.
If many mental health issues are diagnosed in young teens and evidence shows prevention efforts should begin before a suicide attempt why not start at the very beginning. Lets encourage pediatricians to include a mental health questionnaire as part of a child’s yearly physical.

A few questions on family history of mental health issues. Doctors have been asking adults for many years during physicals for family history of heart disease, stroke, diabetes etc.. Why not mental health?

A few questions about the child’s social and emotional skills . The pediatricians ask parents questions from birth to 3 years about eating and sleeping habits because it is imperative for their well-being. Well I say, how they are dealing with their emotions is also imperative to their well-being.

It takes a village to raise a child.
Also a true statement. Let’s take the next step and educate teachers on emotional and social needs for children. A few high schools in this country have just begun to start implementing education on mental health and suicide but its not enough. Every school needs to provide these services. Let’s not wait till high school, let’s start in elementary school
.
We need to begin normalizing emotions and teach children appropriate ways to deal with them. Not just sending a child to the nurse or school social worker for each incidence.
In the real world we all have to deal with challenges sometimes without warning and can’t just go to a mental health professional at each of those moments. We as adults sometimes need to reach out to others to help us through. Why can’t we teach our kids the same thing? Lead by example

Kindness matters

Everyone feels sad, confused, angry etc… at different times this is normal. Showing children that even adults feel this way tells them they are not alone. Children often model behaviors they see , so lets show them effective ways to process their feelings. Social and emotional well-being are of paramount importance.

https://www.psychiatry.org/patients-families/warning-signs-of-mental-illness

https://www.mayoclinic.org/medical-professionals/psychiatry-psychology/news/deadliness-of-attempted-suicide-has-been-dramatically-underestimated/mac-20429739

Inflammation and Suicide

            In looking at the biological factors involved in suicide, inflammation and inflammatory conditions such as traumatic brain injuries, autoimmune disorders, and neuropsychiatric symptoms are only beginning to be explored.

Familial transmission and history of suicidal behavior and early life adversity (ELA) are distant causes, associated with suicide risk. Substance abuse has been identified as a risk as well.

Mounting evidence shows the immune system as important in the pathophysiology of suicidality. The potential triggers of suicidal behavior include various inflammatory conditions (TBI, vitamin deficiency, autoimmune disorders, and infections), which, through raised levels of inflammation, can cause cause significant problems for individuals. These neurobiological effects might cause profound changes in emotion and behavior, which could ultimately lead to suicide in vulnerable individuals. Many more studies are needed.  

For more information, see complete article:

Role of Inflammation in Suicide: From Mechanisms to Treatment

Genetics and Epigenetics

Genetics and Epigenetics

I’ve found that in trying to understand the underlying biological affects on mental illnesses, it’s necessary to understand a few terms.  Among these terms are Genetics and Epigenetics.  Both genetics and epigenetics have been found to be involved in various  diseases of the mind.

So, what is Genetics? Genetics is the study of heredity, in general, and of genes, in particular. 

Mental illnesses are thought to be caused by a variety of genetic and environmental factors:    

  • Genetics (Inherited traits)  Mental illness is more common in people whose blood relatives also have a mental illness. Certain genes may increase your risk of developing a mental illness, and your life situation may trigger it.
  • Environmental exposures before birth. Exposure to environmental stressors, inflammatory conditions, toxins, alcohol or drugs while in the womb can sometimes be linked to mental illness.
  • Brain chemistry. Neurotransmitters are naturally occurring brain chemicals that carry signals to other parts of your brain and body. When the neural networks involving these chemicals are impaired, the function of nerve receptors and nerve systems change, leading to depression and other emotional disorders.  (https://www.mayoclinic.org/diseases-conditions/mental-illness/symptoms-causes/syc-20374968)

What is Epigenetics?   Epigenetics is the study of changes in gene activity which are not caused by changes in the DNA sequence.  It is a set of processes that effects which genes are switched-on (expressed).

It is also the study of how your behaviors and environment can cause changes that affect the way your genes work. Although the environment triggers natural development in some species, it often has harmful effects that have negative consequences for development and for disease.

Research is now showing that epigenetic changes are involved in ‘specific’ diseases. These include cardiovascular diseases, metabolic disorders, cancer, and neurological disorders.

Over the years, it has been debated whether or not epigenetic changes (that have accumulated throughout an entire lifespan) can be carried down from one generation to next, and the next, etc. Researchers have now begun to show significant evidence that this is the case.

Epigenetic processes have recently been implicated to cause numerous mental health disorders, including the most profound – suicide.  One in four of us will suffer from a mental disorder each year – a quarter of our population.  Yet, mental health is still lagging far behind in research.

Undeniably, there is much to be done.  Scientists are currently working on drug  treatments to turn “on/off” the harmful epigenetic modification switches.  So much more work needs to be done.  We must advocate for funding for mental health.

Suicide – Where to Start

Where to start.  Suicide. Who is at risk?  Are there signs? Are there no signs?  Have our prevention initiatives been working?  Or is the suicide rate increasing at epidemic levels? 

These are the questions I, and many others, are asking.  We still do not know what causes this tragedy.  Sometimes, there are known mental illnesses.  Sometimes, there are not.  Sometimes, there are signs.  Sometimes, there are not.  And sometimes, there are unclear ‘possible’ signs, but not what someone would deem necessary of any type of intervention.  So, I ask again, who is at risk?  Do we really want to know?  Do we really want to spend our time and funding to try to stop this epidemic?  

Suicide is defined as the act or instance of taking one’s own life voluntarily and intentionally (Merriam-Webster).  It is described as a person’s self-inflicted violence with the intent to obliterate life, which most of the time culminates into serious physical injuries (CDC, 2015).  Here, my question is, how do we know what was in that person’s mind?  How do we know what a person’s intentions truly are?  There have been many accounts from suicide survivors who have specifically said they didn’t want to die.  They only wanted to stop the pain which had totally engulfed them.  

        Every 40 seconds, a person dies by suicide somewhere in the world, and many more attempt suicide (WHO, 2014). In the young age group of 15-29 year olds, suicide was the second leading cause of death (CDC, 2015).   After 2015, the number was updated to the second leading cause of death in 15-34 year-olds. Now, it has been updated again – to the second leading cause of death in 10-35 year-olds. It is the tenth leading cause of death across all ages (CDC, 2015).  In 2018, 48,344 Americans died by suicide, and there were 1.4 million attempts. Worldwide, 800,000 people died that year by suicide. From these facts and the lack of proper treatment, suicide is now a global health concern.

I’ll ask you this.  If it were your child, your brother or sister, your loved one, would you want to know how to combat it before it’s too late?  If so, then take a crucial step to move forward for research into the scientific causes of suicide.

It’s way past time for us to stop being ‘uncomfortable’ about suicide.  Say the word.  Suicide.  No one wants to, but we must.  Our young people, our sons and daughters, are dying.  They are dying right in front of us, and many times, we don’t even know it’s happening until it’s too late.  Why?  Because of the stigma attached to suicide and to mental disorders.  And because the funding in this area is far lacking of the attention it deserves.

1 out of every 4 Americans experiences a mental health disorder.  Mental = Physical.  Like the heart, lungs, and kidneys, the brain is an organ.  In fact, the brain is the most complex organ in the body.  We need far more research into the areas of mental health diseases and suicide, and all stigma must be removed from those who suffer. 

Research is now being conducted on the effects of genetic components that increase the risk of suicide.  From these findings to date, the research suggests a strong link to inheritance, and therefore, a predisposition for suicidal ideation.  (nihms830663_Epigenetic (1))

Suicide in Depression

 Suicide in Depression

              Of all the known mental disorders, major depressive disorder (MDD) is the most prevalent.  Depression affects 15-17% of our population, and 15% of this MDD group are at risk of suicide.  The article referenced at the conclusion of this blog is bringing focus to an evaluation of our main research studies of those with MDD who are at risk for suicide. The goal is for planning effective suicide prevention strategies and therapeutic interventions for clinicians.


                A broad and comprehensive overview has been conducted by using PubMed/Medline for the topics ‘Major Depressive Disorder’ and ‘Suicide’.  I would encourage you to read the article in its entirety as it goes into great depth on many variables involved in suicide in depression. 

                The results, in layperson’s terms, are as follows:   Despite possible pathophysiological factors (changes to the functioning of the brain), which may explain the complexity of suicide in depressed people, scientific evidence has supposed the combination of additional factors.  These factors include genetics, epigenetics, and our internal and external stressors such as interpersonal, professional, financial, and psychiatric disorders.  Other factors that may play a part include our body’s central stress response system, our lipid profile, our biomarkers (molecules that show the presence of disease or dysfunction), and our brain-derived neurotrophic factor (the gene that provides instructions for making a protein found in the brain and spinal cord).

                    In conclusion to this study, suicide is seen to be a very complex and multifaceted phenomenon where many variables come in to play, especially with those experiencing major depressive disorder.  Modern psychiatry needs a much better interpretation of suicide risk.  In addition, we need to be much more careful in our assessment of prevention strategies for those who may be in danger of suicide.

                  Please read the complete article for more information:

https://www.researchgate.net/publication/340132427_Understanding_the_Complex_of_Suicide_in_Depression_from_Research_to_Clinics

Mental Health Conditions and Suicide

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         Mental Health Conditions and Suicide

                For far too long, we have been placing our minds on the back burner.  Scientific studies have sped along, figuring out causes and cures for many “physical ” illnesses and diseases.  This is a wonderful thing.  We now have sound treatments for heart diseases, kidney disease, cancer, and many other physical conditions.  However, we have left the one organ out that controls all of the other organs.  This is the brain.  I’m not speaking about treating brain tumors and other “physical” conditions.  I’m speaking of something far more elusive; the mind.

            Much has been talked about in the realm of situational and environmental causes for mind, better known as, mental illnesses. However, not much light has been shed onto the biological factors and genetic causes for these conditions.  In this blog site, we will explore the ‘science behind’ mental health conditions and suicide.  

            The question is not why we are looking into these conditions.  It’s why has it taken us so long to do so?