Edit: I didn’t even realize how long this got. Jeez.
Just a few minutes ago, I was looking at a certain website that specifically addresses suicide intervention and provides guidance for suicidal readers. It’s a site that I look at when I feel like I’m in a dark place. Usually it makes me feel better; the writer is a certified psychologist and suicide attempt survivor herself, and always seemed very empathetic and understanding. I won’t give any names or links because I think the site is still useful and I don’t want to risk brigading. But I saw something that made my jaw drop, and I just had to share it here.
The post in question was about some official of the American Association of Suicidology (AAS) resigning. Now, listen to this:
He was resigning because apparently the org doesn’t address RACISM and SEXISM enough. Yes, you heard that right. Suicide - of which WHITE MALES (and males in general) are most likely to complete - does not do enough to help women and minorities.
This was astonishing enough. But then I started scrolling through the comments. Granted, there weren’t a ton - but what was there was crushing. Almost everyone actively applauded the decision, totally oblivious to the reality of suicide. And of course, the waxed ecstatic with all of that jolly neoliberal rhetoric about “ending the racist power structure”. One person exclaimed that “suicide did not care about gender”, praising the resignation. Yes, of course, it does not - which, perhaps, is why you should take off your Woke Glasses and realize the real victims of suicide’s inequalities? Just and idea.
All of this, until, finally, one brave man stood up to point out the emperor’s nudity. I’ll paste his entire comment below, because it’s important for what comes next:
“Diversity and Equity? George Floyd?
70% of suicides in America are WHITE MEN. Even when you go per capita we kill ourselves at nearly 3 times the rate of Black people. We kill ourselves more than any other minority besides Native Americans (our female suicide rates are still higher than even theirs) and the letter didn’t mention Native Americans in any event.
Wouldn’t a reasonable conclusion be to look at those numbers and say, “Wow.. we really need to reach more White people, men in particular? How does a diversity fetish help accomplish that mission? Nothing says ‘you don’t matter’ more than the head of a suicide organization essentially saying, “We need to stop focusing on White dudes so much” when we all know damn well what the statistics are.
There’s already a gigantic problem with empathy within your profession – many of you can’t even relate to us as depressives, with nothing else inhibiting communication and understanding. Then the majority of you are women and the majority of suicides are men, so there’s a gender gap added to that. Now we’re going to add willful racial misunderstanding to that mix as well?
I’ve gotten this feeling before – it’s like you all want to posture and LOOK like you’re preventing suicide and doing the right thing, rather than actually preventing suicide. I’ve got a low bar when it comes to Psychiatry and therapy but nonetheless I am still disappointed. You guys gatekeep some pretty useful meds, but on a mental level you don’t get it at all. You just don’t get it. And it’s the mental level that counts.”
Worded better than I could. Expresses the ridiculousness of the situation, the absurdity, perfectly. All in all, nothing I can see here that I strongly disagree with.
Now. After you’re done letting that comment sit. Listen to the response he got by the writer of the blog.
“I appreciate your giving your view here, but I have to say I don’t understand your logic. Yes, in the U.S. the majority of people who die by suicide are white men. Does that mean the others don’t count?
In 2019, 47,511 people in the U.S. died by suicide, of whom 32,964 were white and male. (I’m using figures from the CDC’s WISQARS site.) However, the CDC classifies Hispanic people as white. If we separate them out from the group, non-Hispanic white men make up 62.2% (29,566) of suicides in the U.S. As you note, we definitely need to reach more non-Hispanic white men.
But here’s the catch: the 17,945 people who died by suicide in 2019 who were Black, Native American, Hispanic, Asian, and/or female were valuable, too. We also need to do more to prevent suicides in those groups, even if they don’t make up the majority of deaths.
I’d also argue that because some groups have much lower suicide rates than others, we need to learn more about what protects them. Take Black women, for example. Their suicide rate is 2.9 per 100,000. This is just 10% the rate for white men (29.8 per 100,000). What can we learn from those who are far less likely to die by suicide that might help those at far more risk?
To address racism, diversity, equity and inclusion is hardly a “diversity fetish.” And Jonathan Singer didn’t say anywhere in his letter, as you assert, anything remotely like, “We need to stop focusing on White dudes so much.” Rather, we need to do more to prevent suicide in women and people of other races, too. If we study only white men – or even if we just study people who die by suicide without homing in on specific subgroups – then the exceptions get lost amid the majority.
Also, a small quibble about your assertion that the majority of people in my profession are female. Among therapists, yes, the majority are female. However, I know of no evidence that the majority of people who conduct research on suicide (aka “suicidologists”) are female.”
This comment. This. Fucking. Comment. Let me remind you again: this is written by a PHD PSYCHOLOGIST who SPECIALIZES IN SUICIDE PREVENTION and is a SUICIDE ATTEMPT SURVIVOR. When I read this, I felt like punching someone. Thankfully, that’s gone now, but I’m still pretty pissed.
Where do I even begin?
First. Where exactly did the man ever say that non-male suicides don’t count? For someone who accuses her (and yes, it is a her) opponent of distorting Singer’s statement, she seems to have some really excellent mind-reading powers, cause I don’t see any implication that the other deaths don’t matter.
Second. I can’t help but be struck by the ingenious advantage that comes with saying “62.2%”. When you put it that way, it doesn’t sound like a lot, does it? I mean, really, that’s basically half, right? Oh wait. Actually, 62% is closer to 66%. Y’know - 2/3? Huh - see, maybe it’s just little old me, but TWO-THIRDS sounds like quite a lot more than a clinical 66.2%. Jokes aside, I must hand it to her: this is great rhetorical manipulation, carefully choosing words as to make the situation look much better than it actually is. In other words: 2/3 is still an inordinate amount. Since this is a male oriented sub and not just anti-woke, I’m not gonna take the time to look into her statistical assertion that about Hispanic men being taken as white. If anyone else is a little bit skeptical by now, though, they’re free to take a shot.
Third. The idea that we should study women suicides more to understand what makes them better at not killing themselves strikes me as hillarious. Should we spend more time researching impoverished whites than impoverished blacks so that we can understand what makes white “less likely to be in poverty”? As opposed to, I don’t know, studying more on those who are disproportionately affected by poverty?
And that leads me to the ultimate problem with this frankly deplorable response. In any other situation, nobody would think like this. When we see that blacks are most likely to be killed by cops, we don’t say that we should spend more time, research, and aid on white victims of cops because doing otherwise is “letting the exceptions get lost within the majority”. That right there is itself a fairly manipulative move - suddenly casting the group who is advantaged in a certain area as the “minority” and therefore the forgotten underdog because most people are more concerned with the disadvantaged group.
But there’s a larger issue here still. The author seems to believe that criticizing the call for more help for an advantaged group is saying that said group doesn’t matter at all. This is one of those bigger issues with neoliberal rhetoric that always pisses me off: they seem to have the attitude that one can only be criticized for direct, explicit statements, never what one doesn’t do or what they do in context. In this case, nobody is saying that a call for more help for female suicides is always bad. Rather, we’re pointing out that the AAS, like all organizations, has to divide its resources up. And unless you disagree with the fundamental ideal that liberals have fought for for the past six decades - that organizations should spend the most time on groups that are the most disadvantaged - it follows logically that, as an organization devoted to suicide research and prevention, and seeing as men are the most likely to complete suicide, the AAS should spend the most time researching male suicide.
Now, assuming that the author would even agree with this (and let’s face it, she probably wouldn’t), this is where the refusal to take into account context becomes a really effective trick. See, my problem, and the original commenter’s problem, is that the company is clearly not focusing enough on men, because otherwise men wouldn’t be the disadvantaged group with regards to suicide. Yet, when taken out of this context, it looks like we’re angry about women and minorities getting help at all, which is how the author paints us. But that’s clearly not the case. Again, imagine if the Us Gov published an official document bemoaning white poverty, with no equivalent for black poverty. There’d by outrage, and nobody would accept the counter that if you criticized the paper, you just wanted white people to starve.
At this point, the author could try to go into even more bizarre territory to rationalize her refusal to treat this situation the same as she would with the above. She could say that funds aren’t a zero sum game. I would respond that while funds are not zero-sum, the total share of funds/time for each group is, and that there is something intrinsically wrong about giving, say, two-thirds of funds to the group who commits only one-third of the suicides.
Even further, she could argue - and she almost seems to already do so, or at least imply - that, although white males make up a hugely disproportionately amount of suicides, mere disproportionality is somehow not enough to prove disadvantage. She could say that women have some special problems that mean they need a bigger share of the aid-pie. This position should immediate strike all sensible people as laughably absurd, and deeply misandrist. What are we supposed to believe - that women suffer from structural issues that make them more prone to suicide, yet men - who lack those disadvantaged - still commit suicide more? How does that even work? More seriously, though, is that the only conclusion we could have from such a scenario is that, were all social factors held equal, men would still commit suicide more than women. Why? Are we simply stupider? More selfish, as I’ve heard feminists proclaim several times? Preoccupied with our “toxic masculinity” (which definitely no women who has ever lived has promoted, rewarded, or sanctioned)? As many on this sub have discussed before, all of this clear victim-blaming misandry. And thus, the final card in the author’s house of tricks is pulled out, and down the illusion goes.
Now. To close all of this off, the biggest issue with all this is not so much the actual arguments. Sure, they suck. But if I saw this from any random person online, I wouldn’t bat an eye. No, the reason why I have spent the past hour typing this up is because, again, this is a PHD THERAPIST. This is a person who is trained to help those in crisis, who has spent her whole life trying to undo the societal stigma that leaves so many dead. This is a person who is clearly in the upper levels of suicide research in the U.S. And yet, despite all that, she simply cannot grasp the blatantly obvious problem with signaling for more help for the groups least affected by suicide.
I mean, Jesus, if this is coming from a trained suicide professional, then it’s hard not to feel pretty damn hopeless about the future of male suicide advocacy. It seems that no matter how many dreaded “white males” kill themselves, those poor minority women who are at the least risk will enjoy ever more specialized aid and virtue signaling at their benefit. And, of course, I will never be able to use this site the same. It’s pretty depressing when the person who’s supposed to empathize with you in your darkest moments still can’t do so, even when they’re staring down reality’s muzzle.
So there. Apologies for the long-winded analysis, but I obviously feel extremely strongly about male suicide advocacy, and this could comment really just put me off.
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