new year's resolutions

New Year’s Resolution: Better Mental Health

The New Year is a time for making resolutions and focusing on self-improvement. While many of these New Year’s resolutions typically have to do with quitting smoking or weight loss, numerous well-intentioned goal-seekers just wind up feeling depressed. Broken resolutions combined with lousy weather and the end of the festive holiday season can leave many Americans glum and disheartened.

New studies show a troubling trend, an increase in major depression among all Americans, but particularly among teens and young adults. In 2017, men died by suicide on the average four times more often than women. And, while in 2017 the highest suicide rate was among adults between 45 and 54 years of age, the increasing trend for teens and young adults is also concerning. In fact, suicide is the second leading cause of death for teens and young adults.

While the reasons for the uptick in the suicide rates are unclear, what is clear is that public awareness and education, access to mental health resources and better screening are all critical to reducing suicide rates and ending this alarming trend. Men’s Health Network (MHN) is working to address these issues by shining a spotlight on men and suicide with our “Your Head: An Owner’s Manual Overcoming Depression, Anxiety & Stress and hosting briefings on this important issue. A MHN briefing held in collaboration with the Congressional Men’s Health Caucus focused on “Veterans and Active Military: Mental Health and Suicide Issues.” This congressional briefing addressed the fact that veteran suicide rates are about 50 percent higher than rates among the general population, according to the Department of Veterans Affairs (VA). And, suicide is the second leading cause of death overall for American Indians/Alaska Natives (AI/AN) between the ages of 10-34. AI/AN is another group disproportionately impacted by suicide and overall health problems as outlined in the MHN information sheets found here:

One possible cause of the increase in suicide rates is a sense of disconnection and hopelessness – particularly among males. Despite our supposed ‘connectivity’ with the Internet, cell phones and social media, the truth is that more and more people are feeling isolated and lonely. Indeed, loneliness has been cited as being as damaging to health as smoking or obesity and studies have shown millions of Americans are impacted – so many that the public health community is taking notice. Former Surgeon General Vivek Murthy, MD, has said loneliness should be targeted in public health campaigns similar to those that combat smoking and obesity.

Certainly, loneliness affects everyone – men and women alike – but it is the way the different genders cope with loneliness that can exacerbate this condition. Typically, men have more difficulty asking for and seeking help – and even articulating their feelings can be challenging which can lead to increased isolation and loneliness. Addressing the issue of suicide – particularly among men – should include efforts to reduce the epidemic of loneliness. Historically, our culture has encouraged emotional toughness and independence for men. Instead, we should encourage men to articulate their feelings and foster emotional connectedness. While not necessarily a vaccine against suicide such a change would help alleviate the damaging health effects of loneliness and might reduce the suicide rates as well.

The irony is that for all our technological ‘connectivity’ we may be more disconnected today than ever before. And, this disconnection is having a deleterious effect on our health and well-being. The issue of suicide is complex and difficult with no one-size-fits-all solutions but surely addressing the mental health problems and rise in loneliness in this country would be a good place to start.

Image by Gerd Altmann from Pixabay 

Anne Holloway

View posts by Anne Holloway
Anne Holloway is an experienced government relations executive with a demonstrated history of working successfully in legislative and regulatory areas of the consumer goods industry. Anne is skilled in public affairs, grassroots organizing, event planning and government. She has exceptional writing and communication skills with a Bachelor of Arts (B.A.) focused on writing from Denison University. A former Vice President of Government Affairs with a trade association, Anne also worked as a Legislative Director for a Member of Congress. Creator of a food blog featuring a variety of culinary musings, Anne authored two books, View from a Train and Fear of Heights.

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