I have been #movemebering for 9 years now. I started the year after my father passed away. It seemed natural at the time to do something, just a little something, to prevent men to die too young. He was 61, and he died from health issues that were preventable — lots of them really bad habits. But there is a bad habit that is killing many more men than any other cause. Suicide.
I’m a very rational person — at least I want to believe I am. I’m an engineer, and try not to do things in vain. I think emotions, anecdotal evidence and soundbites have sadly recently taken precedence over rationality — Covid19 is making it all even worse. But I tend to get the numbers, the facts, and respond appropriately to challenges. Prioritize. Try to do what is right, not what looks right. So I dwelled into the numbers (eventually).
My main “goal” for #movember originally— a very “manly” one — was to contribute to testicular cancer prevention, as someone near me passed away, way, way too young because of that. Also it’s one of the “male diseases” that had been “publicized” in cycling through the Lance Armstrong emblematic cancer fight, (although it actually it’s been demonstrated that cycling is not an influencing parameter). And it’s true it’s one of the silent killers of young men (average age of 33), and it is on the rise for mostly unknown reasons so far, and it is handled too late. One of the problem is that many apparently healthy men don’t see a doctor regularly, and their threshold for seeing a doctor for discomfort or pain is too high, meaning taking care of serious issues at a time when cancer is harder to tame. A lot of campaigning as been done to encourage younger men to perform a simple check of their testicles, and talk to their doctors if they see any change, and it is great! But it is still behind attention given to breast cancer, so we can continue to inform, and encourage self care. That said, when I checked the numbers, about 10% of total cancer deaths are caused by breast cancer (nearly 50000 in the US last year), hence a very high contributor to early death of women. And it is a 100 times higher than testicular cancer death…so Pink October, information campaign about breast cancers and early detection, investment in finding appropriate treatments is paramount. It does not mean that we should forget the work for lots of the other causes, and forget boys to “check thy nuts”, but honestly, painting #PinkOctober is a more important fight. With 440 deaths of testicular cancer in the US in 2020, breast cancer is more than a 100 times more important. I promise to serve that cause better than I did before — I want my love, and all other girls I know- to reach 99 years old healthy and strong.
So what shall I do for my #movember, then? So I surfed the statistical wave. And it’s obvious. Biggest killer of men is themselves.
Few numbers I have dug are pretty self explanatory about why suicide prevention, for men, is paramount. I would call it “tragic facts” rather than “fun facts”:
- For people 15 to 47 in 2017, suicide was across genders, globally #6 cause of death. 500,000 people killed themselves— causing 5 times more deaths than accidental drug overdose, 5 times more than alcohol abuse, 2/3 of road accidents, about half of cardio vascular diseases.
- Globally, death by suicide occurred about 2 times more often among males than among females, and this is pretty constant over the years . In the western world, males die by suicide three to four times more often than do females. Women count twice as many attempts as men, but men are 3 times more successful.
- Young male homosexual and bisexual are about 10 times more likely to commit suicide than heterosexual. The trend is not confirmed with females.
- In France , about 10000 people die early from suicide. To put this in perspective, in the 2010’s, about 120 women died from domestic violence. It’s 120 too many, it is an appalling statistic — but how can’t we find the suicide rate, 100 times higher, not appalling?
So it is clear. Your boys are 100 times more likely to die from suicide than from testicular cancer. They are 4 times more likely to kill themselves than your girls. They are 100 times more likely to end their life, than your girl is likely to get killed by her boyfriend or husband.
All just causes should be supported, all the good fights need to be fought. But when it comes down to men’s health, suicide is the most important.
Boys don’t cry, but they kill themselves. They look strong and resilient, but then they snap. They go through a lot with fewer signs of depression than women, but they are more exposed to suicide. They don’t seek help — they terminate themselves. That’s what we need to change. That’s what I want to change for my future #november fundraisers — grow a moustache to raise awareness for male suicide, and mental health.
Be well and be safe,
Love, Reach out,
Hemka, December 1st 2020, Singapore.