Why is divorce and suicide a fatal brew for men? Why does divorce make men more suicidal than women? And the most important question is what can be done about the silent epidemic of male suicide? Overall – men in this country are four times more likely than women to take their own lives.
The Shocking Divorce and Suicide Statistics for Men
The Canadian Mental Health Association reports men are likely to kill themselves at a rate 3-4 times higher than females. Marital breakdown is often a factor.
“Divorce is a tipping point for a lot of guys,” says Prof. John Oliffe, a University of B.C. psychology researcher who is part of a team fighting male depression and suicide. “Divorce is a classic factor in suicide. These men become socially isolated. There are so many examples of good men’s lives ending prematurely.”
North American men going through divorce are eight times more likely than divorcing women to commit suicide, reports Augustine Kposowa, of the University of California, Riverside.1)http://vancouversun.com/news/staff-blogs/men-and-suicide-the-silent-epidemic
Kposowa used a large, nationally-representative database to analyze the effects of marital status on suicide risk. He found that divorced men were more than twice as likely to commit suicide as married men, and almost 10 times more likely to kill themselves as divorced women.
Based on Kposowa’s research, it is possible to tally the number of divorced men in the United States who take their own lives. These calculations reveal that each year, more than 3,600 divorced men — about 10 every day — commit suicide.2)Kposowa AJ. Marital status and suicide in the National Longitudinal Mortality Study. Journal of Epidemiology and Community Health 2000; 54: 254-261.
The Wrong Reasons assumed for Divorce and Suicide among Men
For those who say that men commit suicide after divorce merely because they do not want to pay child support or alimony, that is not enough. It is like saying that people are prone to suicide when their taxes go up or they have to pay higher health care premiums. It smacks of a snarky gender condescension.
It is an insult to people who do commit suicide to trivialize the desperate act of suicide to escaping a financial burden alone, even if admittedly that weight is very heavy.
Some think it is because men cannot handle rejection. Being divorced from a spouse is a different issue than being torn away from your kids. These men that suicide after divorce are likely not killing themselves cause they cannot see their ex again, it is because they don’t see their kids anymore.
Some say it is because men need a woman to take care of them.
Let’s see a fuller picture of why divorce and suicide is more of an issue for men after divorce than women.
The Real Reasons Divorce and Suicide Affects Men more than Women
1. Deadbeat Dad
The father is depicted as a deadbeat, even if he does pay the child support and/or alimony imposed by the court. Because the child support and alimony payment will always be less money than the wife and children lived on before. This divided family is now living on the same income which has to support two rents or two mortgages, two households. As a result, they are going to feel the pain of less money. Access to less money than in the past, leads to hostility to the father that he is not paying his fair share, even if he is paying what is ordered by the court.
2. Alienation and Estrangement from Children
If the mother considers the division of money by the court to be unfair or unsatisfactory, the father almost has no chance of ever having a good relationship with his children again. He will be demonized as a deadbeat dad. The mother will impute that the father can afford more money than the court decided. He is in a losing battle for the heart and minds of his kids. As a result, the mother intentionally or not, consciously or not, influences the kids to hate their fathers, especially for lack of financial support.
Misery is always associated with unmet expectations. In these cases, where the mother expected a larger share in the monthly income, and does not get it, the father will be reviled. For a man, to be loathed by his children is unbearable, and in the case where the man no longer feels he has anything to live for, no place to turn for additional financial help, the only option left is to commit suicide and end the mental pain of being despised by his own children
The chronic demonization of the father can lead to temporary or permanent alienation or estrangement. If you have children, can you imagine how a reduced or permanent estrangement from them would feel? The fatal blow to relationship between father and children is enough to cause significant bouts of depression.
Divorce and suicide for men is exacerbated by estrangement or alienation from children. The same reason that women are less likely to commit suicide is the same reason for the increase of suicide in divorced men – temporary or permanent separation from their children.
3, Financial Ruin
Typically, a man can end up paying up to 50 % of income in child support and alimony, with another 20 or 30% on taxes, and debt from legal fees. Clearly, if the man is already very poor, he will not feel much difference in his lifestyle and the court does not have much to take from him. If the man is very wealthy, he can hire lawyers who will protect him from the court and unfair bias and will also not feel much of a difference after divorce. It is the middle class man, who is neither poor or rich, who has a middle class job, he is the one who will be most affected by the divorce and is left in economic crisis.
Refusal of the court to allow for any economic downturns, so, if the man is a business owner and has a difficult year due to unforeseen circumstances, the monthly payment expectation of child support and alimony has no sliding scale, and as a result, he is subject to monthly threats of arrest and jail by the child support agencies.
Forget about retirement. In the old days, he used to dream of himself on the beach or in a second home. Now, while sitting in his one room apartment, he knows that one room might be as good as it gets. After 10, 20 or 30 years of working and saving, and now feeling like he is back to square one, even worse than square one, suicide seems like a better option than sitting and stewing for the rest of his life. Especially when he knows that he might end up literally homeless on the streets.
The threat of losing his professional license if he is not able to pay the child support.
In stark contrast to the court enforcement of paying child support, the court will not enforce visitation with the children for fathers.
4. Criminalization of a Law Abiding Citizen
Men consistently report feeling as if the judge or opposing attorney in divorce court treats him like a criminal, while they slice up whatever income he makes at a job where he is a human being. This creates cognitive dissonance and the subsequent mental stress of living in conflicting realities.
At his job, which the court assumedly wants him to remain successful for the sake of providing child support and alimony, he is not held in contempt. In fact, he might even be held in high esteem with a title and responsibility. In court though, he is held in contempt. This ravaging of a man’s self esteem, together with all of the other losses experienced by men after divorce might explain why the divorce and suicide risk for men is so high.
5. Losing the Entire Structure of Family Life & Home
Yesterday, he had a wife and children around and today he lives alone, without his family, especially without his children. Previously, he might have lived in a decent home, and in a good neighborhood. In fact, he might have designed and built this home of his dreams himself. But today, he finds himself in a garage, an apartment, living out of his car, or a new and different home. All of a sudden, he realizes that he no longer has a home. And on top of that, he might no longer have the funds to pay for his new small living quarters, wherever they may be. This all contributes to a precipitous loss of self-esteem.
6. Being Declared Dangerous
Being treated as ‘dangerous’ or ‘depressed’, by the court or guardians of the court. A common tactic of an opposing lawyer is to persuade the judge that the father is dangerous or depressed. Fear is a great persuader. Once the judge believes that there is any credible fear that the father who always loved his children, is now dangerous, the father is going to lose his relationship with his kids. All it takes for the judge to think that there might be a danger is for the opposing side to accuse. Even if the accusation is false, it is difficult to prove as it is he said and she said argument. And the judge will decide in favor of protecting the children from a false accusation.
7. Needing a Supervisor
Another common outcome of such a false accusation is that he now has to see his children with a guardian or supervisor. Imagine, he can no longer be alone with his children. This further cements the idea in his children’s minds that he is dangerous. As a result, their fear grows and they no longer relish the idea of being in his company. Not only does he have to see his kids with a supervisor, on top of that humiliation, he also is forced to pay for the time of the supervisor.
8. Loss of Total Identity
Men after divorce are usually the one who loses not only his marriage, but he also loses his children, friends and family who may now have become distant. As a result, he no longer recognizes his life. How men feel after divorce has been compared to being cut out of his own family portrait, so now, you no longer exist.
Men do not see the ‘signs’ that their relationship is in trouble. By the time their wife gives up, it is too late. Unfortunately for men, they are not great mind readers, and unless their wife verbally communicates that there are problems in a marriage, it is not sufficient to say that signs are enough.
In any case, as a result, the wife knows that she is over and done with the marriage, perhaps years before the husband has a clue. So when she pulls the trigger and serves his with divorce papers, he is in shock and she is not, because he could not read the ‘signs’. This is not to criticize anyone for not being able to read signs. The best way to deliver a message is to say it, not by giving hints or signs and expecting the other party to be aware.
In a significant number of divorces, some say 75 – 80 percent, the man had no clue that the divorce was already in process. She is already emotionally prepared and perhaps even financially for that event. She might have prepared for years. If the man is not prepared for the papers when he receives them, that shock alone can send him into a tailspin of depression. His ex might have thought that ambushing him in his driveway or at the office to serve divorce papers was a reasonable idea, but in the end, if he suicides due to the shock, she only hurts her own children, and financial outlook.
10. Loss of Reality
Which brings us to the point of non existence. A man after divorce, is more likely to feel as if he has lost all touch with reality. For his ex, she remains in the marital home, she remains with the children, she will not be treated like a pariah by the child support agency or the court or court appointed ‘guardians’. Her reality is not too different from her life prior to the divorce, other than the fact that her ex is no longer in the home. On the other hand, for the man, his life is turned upside down. Suicide becomes a much more attractive option than constant humiliation.
Divorce cases are not decided overnight. First comes the delivery of the divorce action to appear at the opposing lawyer or appear in court. If the husband is not expecting to be subpoenaed on his front lawn in front of the neighbors and kids, or in his office in front of his office colleagues, he will have a mountain of disgrace to deal with.
Once his office and co workers are aware of the divorce proceedings, a cloud will hang over his head. Soon he is going to be busy preparing net worth statements, trying to keep up with lawyer fees, going to court dates, writing, answering or editing papers written by himself or if he can afford, his lawyer.
12. Loss of Career Risk
The divorce process can take one to two years, sometimes longer. If he is not able to keep focus on his job, he runs the risk of losing his employment.
If a man loses his marriage, home, children, family, friends, neighbors and job, this explains additional connection of divorce and suicide. All of these factors, separation or worse, estrangement from children, sensing the rejection of his children, the demonization by his ex, the court and child support enforcement, the loss of money, home, car, career, neighbors, friends, community, all lead to depression. Severe and chronic depression is a clear divorce and suicide risk.
13. Loss of Love and Affection
The wife still feels the attention of her children and how they need her. She also experiences their love. The children have been traumatized and have already lost their father, physically from their space and emotionally in the cases where the father is portrayed as a deadbeat even when complying with the court.
All the man feels is that everyone is angry at him for not providing enough money, even when he gives as ordered by the court, the expectation is that he should be giving more. He only feels that his family wants money and nothing more from him. He is nothing more than an ATM machine. There is no feeling of love or affection. This loss of love and affection is another significant explanation of divorce and suicide for men.
14. No Support
A man is less likely to have the group support that a woman has, especially if he has been working in a career during his marriage. A woman is more likely to have developed emotional bonds outside of her job with friends, whereas a man is more likely to focus on his work. When the divorce comes, he is only left with work and no more emotional support. After work, he is more likely to go home to his space and stew over what went wrong. As a result, the sense of isolation for a man is very intense after divorce. Another link between divorce and suicide.
15. Negative Side Effects of Antidepressants
When women prepare for divorce, one strategy they employ is to make sure that their husband gets onto antidepressants. They do their best to suggest and sometimes insist that he take medications for ‘his own good’, to ‘take off the edge’. Of course, the reason is that once the husband is on antidepressants, he is now assumed to be ‘flawed’ and someone to fear. The greatest persuader is fear of danger and a man on antidepressants becomes a frightful character.
Now that he is on meds, the judge assesses that he might be dangerous and therefore will rule to order visitation with a supervisor. This gets the ball rolling to divorce and suicide because of estrangement from his own children. Most likely, the woman is not insisting that her husband take antidepressants to cause estrangement from his children. They push the drugs to help them get an advantage in court to retain custody. But the sad reality is that the judge will see the man as he has been painted, on antidepressants and therefore a danger to his children and himself.
Once the man is already on antidepressants, he faces a new danger to his mental and physical health. Antidepressants, especially when they were not really called for in the first place, can have catastrophic side effects that double the risk of suicide. If he does not suicide, he still faces the onslaught of slowed movement, night sweats, insomnia, loss of feeling in extremities, nightmares and a sense of general malaise.
16. No Future
Some men after divorce see no future. His wife still has a life and family, the children, and/or friends. He sees a life of struggling to pay the bills, avoid jail, with no emotional feedback, with no relationship with his kids. What is the point? He sees no path to feel like he is living a good life. The mental pain of knowing that he has no path to a good life, lets a man think that the best course then is to just end his life now.
Because he feels that his life is already over, so, since it is already over emotionally, financially, he might as well end it physically.
17. Sudden Visitor Status
Recreating a life after 10 or 20 years of marriage dissolves. The wife’s life is much the same, the father’s is upheaval. The losses of marriage , children, income, home, security, stability, pride , are all hit in a short amount of time, causing sufficient shock and humiliation to the father to contemplate and carry out suicide.
She is still the mother and the father becomes a ‘visitor’. No one likes to lose their status, and being demoted from a father to a visitor can be a catastrophic humiliation.
Why Men Do Not Want to Marry
Here is where the go solo movement has picked up steam. Single men see the catastrophe that divorced men experience. Why would they ever want to marry and risk the same? Considering the state of divorce court in the country and the real bias in the court system, you cannot blame a young man today if they swear off marriage and children. Especially the children of divorce. And even more, especially the children of a divorced father who did suicide.
They have been shown a clear picture of what can happen to a man after marriage, children and divorce. And it is not a pretty picture. The long term consequences of a divorce can go beyond family disunity and estrangement. If the father was excoriated, driven to depression, job loss and/or suicide, the chances are that the children do not want such a risk, especially sons.
What to do about Divorce and Suicide among men?
If you are still married, never, ever take antidepressants. Especially at the suggestion of your wife. If she is planning a divorce, you are better off to not be medicated. If she is not, and is sincerely trying to help you, then get off your you know what, get to the gym and start working out and eating better.
Start taking care of yourself and get healthier so you can improve your marriage.
If you are already divorced and having suicidal ideation, then you owe it to yourself to try and rebuild your life. All the ideas for rebuilding your life after divorce are beyond the scope of this post. Fortunately, a book has been written that can prevent divorce and suicide for men. Get the book, work the plan, get stronger in your mind and body. Don’t give up.
Comments on Divorce and Suicide Risk for Men
Please leave your comments/insights about the risk of suicide for men after divorce. If we can help one man, one father to reconsider suicide and get him better, is it not worth your words? So, say what you can to help these fathers and men after divorce. They really have few places to go for support or advice.
References [ + ]
|2.||↑||Kposowa AJ. Marital status and suicide in the National Longitudinal Mortality Study. Journal of Epidemiology and Community Health 2000; 54: 254-261.|