To reduce the number of suicides among young men, society must allow them to be weak, said Rory O’Connor, professor at the University of Glasgow and president of the International Academy for the Study of Suicide.
Three quarters of all suicides in the world occur in men - this is equally true for Britain and Russia. In some cultures and age groups, suicide has become the main cause of death among guys and, apparently, such a significant increase appeared only in the last half century. It used to be assumed that this is not worth talking about at all, that any mention of suicide causes its epidemic. But everything is much more complicated. Indeed, talking about a specific method or even about one of the popular causes of suicide, one can provoke the “Werther effect”, named after the hero of the Goethe novel, after which a wave of suicides swept across Europe. However, science also knows the “Papageno effect”, the character of Mozart’s “Magic Flute”: the decision of young people to commit suicide or stay alive can be affected by the way European media speak about this problem and its causes.
So why are guys three times more likely to kill themselves than women? The most obvious answer is that guys are much more likely to resort to lethal suicide methods that have irreversible effects. But there is one more problem. Over the past fifty years, there has been a global shift in gender roles. Women got equal rights with men, income differences are constantly decreasing, and traditional ideas about masculinity have remained unchanged: men still have to be strong, earn money and talk less about their feelings. If you suddenly do not meet one or several of these criteria, and you are also characterized by social perfectionism, then it seems to you that life has failed, that friends and family look at you with disappointment.
This topic is important to me, because on my project there are guys who are afraid to take responsibility on themselves. I see how it bothers them. They are very worried about this, but they can’t say anything. I decided to write an article to show it to my colleagues, and try to solve the issue. Because now we face constant stress every day. And to overcome it we need to reflect.
Conventional perfectionism, aimed at self-improvement of the personality, has nothing to do with suicidal tendencies. If you are struggling with yourself, set yourself some goals, this is healthy perfectionism. But sometimes it acquires malignant features - and becomes a social or imposed society. A young man with this disorder is constantly afraid to disappoint the people around him. It seems to him that everyone expects something transcendental from him. Most importantly, this idea has nothing to do with the real expectations of others: a person is tormented not by how his partner, parents or friends evaluate him, but by how he thinks they value him. In psychology, this is called the metacognitive process.
In its most general form, social perfectionism is “our ideas about other people's expectations from us”. When it seems to us that we do not meet these expectations, we become more prone to depression and ultimately despair. This disorder is just one of a wide range of common causes that drive young people in Europe to commit suicide. But it is especially interesting for psychologists, because here there is an interaction between a person’s personality, stress and cognition. We are interested in vulnerability as a key factor in the development of suicidal tendencies. Many people constantly criticize or misjudge themselves, but, fortunately, most of them will never lay hands on themselves. Therefore, it is necessary to understand how perfectionism increases the risk, whether it can change people's ideas about themselves, about the past and about the future. One thing is certain: a young man decides to commit suicide when life becomes so unbearable that he cannot think of anything else. Suicide is the only way out.
First of all, young people are at risk, especially those who are sensitive to negative phenomena in the environment. A vulnerable young man tends to consider himself defeated, humiliated and trapped. This to a large extent applies specifically to guys, because women tend to seek help from relatives or specialists more often, they share emotions more easily. I came to the conclusion that it is the feeling of defeat, humiliation, trap that very often pushes people to commit suicide. This feeling can be an obsessive state that causes headaches, and can come from outside, especially when you lose control of your life. Failures in personal life, work, and a whole series of factors can give rise to the disease. But especially often this feeling is caused by social perfectionism. Society requires men in Europe and other countries to be successful. And people suffering from social perfectionism, this pressure makes them even more experiencing their own failures - or what seems to be such. It does not matter whether they objectively evaluate themselves or not, it is important that this makes them take suicide.
Unfortunately, we still know too little about what causes social perfectionism in people. One of the possible reasons may be the overly strict upbringing of children and their lack of encouragement. Since children learn to interact with the outside world through communication with parents, if they are constantly criticized, then they project this attitude on all other people and enter adulthood with low self-esteem, more vulnerable and prone to mental disorders.