Suicide among men is a recognized epidemic throughout the world. Most of us, at one time or another, consider it, however intensely or fleetingly, for a multitude of reasons from just plain hopelessness to ending unbearable physical pain. Fortunately, relatively few act on it. Generally, women are more likely than men to make suicide attempts, as over 50% of suicide attempts are made by women. However, men are much more likely to be successful at killing themselves as they choose more lethal methods of suicide. What is of interest here is the fact that Men account for 80% of all suicide deaths in the United States. Although the suicide rate has remained relatively level over the past seventy years, it is still the 8th leading cause of death among Americans.

Why do men claim this distinction so exclusively? Obviously it is largely tied to an inability to deal with the stresses of life in a positive manner. This is a very complex area of inquiry and much writing is available for the seeking. My purpose is to bring the question into focus for whatever good it might do.

The story you are about to read gives one man's viewpoint on it and I offer it in the hopes that it may create some thought provoking discussion. WARNING: There are a couple of parts in this story that may effect your lunch in one way or another. 

Highway 94

The bumper sticker ahead said "PRAY FOR ME, I DRIVE HWY 94". 94 floats along now under my beat up '80 Suzuki 650 as I pray for myself, for the bald rear tire, the chain stretched to the max and ready to disintegrate, taking me with it...and then there's the California drivers--all of them talking on their cell phones oblivious to the road.. A smile comes to the corner of my lips. Suddenly I find myself laughing like hell, forcing the endorphins out of my brain and into my body, releasing, releasing, releasing--laughing so loud under my helmet that tears tickle down my face causing me to laugh harder yet, fogging my visor in the cold morning air so I can't see a thing. Then suddenly I think, "what the hell does this puppy have to laugh about?"...47 years old, unemployed, over-qualified, 20 grand in debt, divorced with two kids to take care of. One down with the flu, the other following the Grateful Dead around the world selling tie-dyed tee shirts.  

It is April, my youngest, the one with the flu, is a non-smoking musician. He's living with a friend who smokes 80 packs of cigarettes a day, taken in by the boy's neurotic mother. He's in the eleventh grade. I'm on the streets of San Diego today having just been evicted from the apartment with no where to go. I would have declared bankruptcy but I can't afford it. I don't know where I'm going, but there is just enough gas in the tank to get a little lonelier. Dad, the role model, to Grandmother's house a-going.

It's raining now on Hwy southern California, where it never rains, but has been for two solid weeks. I pissed away a small fortune, learning to know myself. I feel healed but I'm not sure of what. I've found spiritual rebirth in the discovery of my own "power"...but I'm scared as hell. I feel the rain finding those openings into my body that only rain and wind can find. My boots are soaked. It's as cold as a New Hampshire winter night. Now, even the tears are cold. Life holds no warmth, no gentle touch, nothing soft.

The newspaper picture will show the twisted mass of flesh and metal pancaked against the bridge abutment. The pretty young paramedic, the one with the tight jeans and great tits, on her way to her first call out of training school, will throw up when she sees my pecker hanging from the spokes of what once was the front wheel. What kind of experience must it be to hit a bazillion tons of concrete on a bike at 140 miles per hour? The bike swings south onto the interstate toward Mexico, no one I know driving. The traffic gets lighter. I twist the throttle and open it up to 75...80...85. It only takes a second or two. Ah, there's the bridge up ahead. 90...95...the adrenaline is pumping its last hurrah. Man, this is going to be somethin'. Splat! Scrunch! Yukk! 

I guess it was the thrill, the pure soul level choice of coming so close that made me realize I was having too much fun in the process to actually kill myself. Or perhaps it was running out of gas at 97 miles an hour that did it. It really didn't matter. I stood alone along the edge of the highway, staring down at the easy rain as it hit the pipes and steamed upward with a gentle hiss. My body felt lighter than it had ever to be alive, to feel the cold air in my lungs. Knowing that my life had changed in an instant and that I had nothing to do with it changing, I suddenly understood what surrender was. I felt my masculinity in a way that I had never known it before; in a way, I felt sure, that only another man would understand. It hurt deeply that I had no other man to share it with, to explore it with. I wondered at that moment if there been a woman to hear my story, could she have understood the loneliness, the emptiness, the desperation I felt. I think not.

Nothing had changed and everything had changed. I was very happy to be alive.

© 2007, Kenneth F. Byers

Other Transition Issues, Books

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A permanent state of transition is man's most noble condition. - Juan Ramon Jimenez

Ken Byers holds a Ph.D. in psychology with an emphasis in Men's Studies, one of the few ever awarded in the U.S. Ken is a full time Certified Professional Life Coach specializing in working with men in any form of transition and an instructor of design at San Francisco State University.

His books, "Man In Transition" and "Who Was That Masked man Anyway" are widely acknowledged as primers for men seeking deeper knowledge of creating awareness and understanding of the masculine way. More information on Ken, his work and/or subscription information to the weekly "Spirit Coach" newsletter which deals with elements of the human spirit in short commentary, check the box at or or or E-Mail You are welcome to share any of Ken's columns with anyone without fee from or to him but please credit to the author. Ken can be reached at: 415.239.6929.

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