The Lesson of May Day


            Some years ago we counseled with a young man who considered suicide because of a $5,000 debt. That’s when we learned that its not the amount of debt that matters, it’s the burden of the debt on the soul.


            Now we hear that hard economic times are being blamed for a 31% increase in suicide from 1999 to 2010. Since the beginning of the 2008 recession more people have died in the suicide epidemic than were killed in auto accidents. The hardest hit group is no longer teens or the elderly, but adults ages 35 to 64, for whom suicide are now the fourth most common cause of death. And middle aged men suffer most of all, with suicides out numbering women by 4 to 1. 


            It should not be too surprising that men are the primary victims of the suicide epidemic. Men feel the responsibility of providing for their families, and feel condemnation when they cannot. Their self esteem is often derived from their work, with devastating results when the job is lost. Men learn not to communicate their emotional needs and many are too proud to ask for help. In a prolonged economic slump, hopelessness takes hold and some begin to feel that the world would be better off without them.


            Our experience has been that people can escape from debt and prolonged financial bondage, but the real problem here is spiritual, not financial. The antidote to failure and condemnation is to realize that the whole Christian religion is built on forgiveness for our past mistakes and moving forward without guilt. Self esteem comes from the value placed on us by God, whose children we are, and can be realized not just through work but also through Church, family, and friends. Men may not sit in a circle and sing Kum-Ba-Ya, but they can learn to humble themselves and let others help them. And they can realize that they are still needed by their friends, families, and Churches.


            Reaching out to men in trouble is hard to do because they hide their feelings and often behave badly. The first thing you can do is to involve them in some activity to keep them busy and slowly rebuild self esteem. Share your own failures openly and never insult them by being patronizing. Let them know that their life is valuable by asking for their advice and help. Share your faith if you can, pointing to a better future. And make ‘em laugh.


            Our young friend rediscovered his hope in life with a little encouragement and little help. Hope was the key to the rest of his life.


            So, keep hope alive and stay alive. There is so much to live for.

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