How Hilarious is it? Men are Dying
William Fothergill, MA., MSW., CPC, LPC faculty member at Central Connecticut State University
Like most, I was surprised and sadden about the suicidal death of comedian Robin Williams. What a great loss. The world is missing yet another great funny-man following the earlier deaths of John Candy, Jim Belushi, Richard Pryor, and Chris Farley. Each of these amazing men died early due to lifestyle choices and (or) battles with mental illness.
The unexpected death of Robin Williams highlights three important social issues, (1) the state of men’s health, (2) mental illness, and (3) suicide. These topics are taboo, yet they remain major health care problems in the United States. When was the last time you heard the term “men’s health”? We commonly and justifiably hear “family care” or “women’s health”, but rarely have I heard a politician, government official, or healthcare advocates declaring the relevance of men’s health. Discussions about healthcare does not always take into consideration the unique healthcare needs of male populations.
I have noticed a string of male comedians dying prematurely due to complications resulting from their addiction and hidden mental health issues. Not only are funny men dying, but the health and mortality of the male population is compromised. Males significantly lag behind their female counterparts in most health related factors. Males are dying early, unexpectedly, and senselessly. Have we reached a point where we are immune to male death and disease? Have things gotten so bad that we expect men to die prematurely and we have convinced them that early death and it’s normal to embrace unhealthy lifestyles?
Years ago, I remember working as a clinical case manager with male juvenile and young adult offenders. I will never forget the discussions about their futures. Many of these young men regularly stated they did not see themselves ever reach their 30th birthday. What is society teaching are males about living and living healthy and well? We are teaching them to be “tough, invincible, suffer in silence, and die of preventable causes of death. Males are expected to die and to put their minds and bodies on the athletic field, battle field, and the field of professional dreams for honor, glory, pride, career advancement, and patriotism. Big and muscular is the epitome of the ideal man. Living up to the ideal is costing men their health and ultimately their lives. Who pays the cost of unhealthy men? We all do, so that’s why it’s important to place more attention on the state of men.
Examining the state of men’s health uncovers facts that are not funny. Humor cannot hide the reality that men have adopted unhealthy lifestyles that are compromising their wellbeing. Gorman & Read (2007) stated the following:
“Men however continue to experience substantial premature death during the adolescent, young adult, and middle-age years. Today, for most major causes of death (12 of the top 15 causes of death in 2004), age – adjusted death rates are higher among men than women.” 3
According to the Center for Disease Control & Prevention (CDC) men are disproportionately dying of the 10 leading causes of preventable death in the United States. 1
The CDC further reported…
It’s time to look beyond the stoicism, humor, bravado, and silence presented by males to discover more effective ways of saving their lives. It is possible to address the health needs of women and men simultaneously without compromising the supports to the other gender. We must gravitate away from an Us versus Them mentality of healthcare. It’s not a competition – it’s about creating a healthier society.
We are beginning to understand more about the hidden lives of our comedic men and how many live a façade masking the true state of their health. This is not just true for comedians, but this is equally true for most men. We must bring greater attention to the health needs of men and challenging them to be more responsible for their health.
Seven Keys for Improving Men’s Health:
The health of a community is dependent on the health of each member of that community. It’s time to stop ourselves from becoming lulled into laughter where we don’t remain mindful of what is happening around us. It’s time to get serious about improving male health outcomes and start addressing the health crisis affecting male population. I would appreciate reading your suggestions about what we all can do to help men improve the state of their overall health. What are your Seven Keys for improving men’s health?
1 Center for Disease Control and Prevention. Men’s Health FastStats”, cdc.gov. CDC/National Center for Health Statistics. Web. 14 July. 2014. http://www.cdc.gov/nchs/fastats/mens-health.htm
2 Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. National Health Interview Survey. 2011. http://www.cdc.gov/nchs/fastats/mens-health.htm
3 Bridget K. Gorman, Ghazal Read, Jen'nan. . Why do men die younger than women? Geriatrics and Aging. 2007; 10(3):182-191. Minino, A.M., Herson, M., Smith, B., et al. Deaths: Final data 2004. Health E-Stats. Released November 24, 2006. Web. http://www.medscape.com/viewarticle/555221_2
4 Kung, Hsiang-Ching, et al. "Risk factors for male and female suicide decedents ages 15–64 in the United States". Social Psychiatry and Psychiatric Epidemiology 38 (8): 419–426.
5 Murphy, George E. "Why Women are Less Likely Than Men to Commit Suicide". Comprehensive Psychiatry 39 (4): 165–175.