Men are four times as likely to commit suicide compared with women. It is the third highest cause of death in young males.
What should we be learning from this?
Often in health instead of looking at where something failed, it can also be helpful looking at why something went well.
What was different? Why did that one person manage to turn their life around compared with another. What was their protective factor?
So why do women fair better in the suicide stats? I think it is for two reasons;
- We talk, we share - I believe this is the most important point
- Traditionally we had slightly less pressure on us
Some people may disagree with point two.
I'm not saying we had less to do, or that life was easier...but historically being a woman allowed us the grace to focus on children and household.
"Oh she's a women, she can't do that," was a commonly held belief. Was it sexist, incorrect, and horribly frustrating?? Yes of course!
But it did remove some of the society pressure of juggling multiple lives, finances, and stressors...put that burden onto men, and we can see that in suicide rates.
Fast-forward a few generations and how many 'jobs' do you have now?
Here are mine:
- Business Owner
- Programme Manager
- Child Health Nutritionist
- Mother and Wife
- Therapist to friends and family
- Project manager on our home renovations
- Taxi driver to and from preschool, swimming, ballet etc
- Personal shopper
- Personal trainer
Also in our favour, and what I believe to be the most important protective factor, is that we talk.
We talk about what is bothering us, how we are feeling, what we are struggling with. We share, laugh, and cry with our friends about it.
But this is changing too.
I know my life is so busy that I don't often have time for friends. That is the raw honesty of it. My work colleagues become my friends, and I'm lucky I have amazing colleagues.
However there are some bits of dirty laundry you don't want to air in the workplace. Some women turn to online support. However for many this is just adding to the pressure.
The New Age Woman
Online we are bombarded with the new age woman. She does EVERYTHING and she looks good whilst she does it.
When Jacinta Adern announced she was pregnant this week there were cries of "Wohoo this will show the world that women can do it all" ringing out through our office.
I didn't join them.
Don't get me wrong, I am so so very happy that their desire to have children has been made a reality. But Jacinta is a human. She is a real life living breathing human being.
What if she did the test and said "shit...I've just taken the biggest job of my career and I'm pregnant". I can imagine her being super excited given their now exposed fertility history.
However what if a part of her was really scared, really worried. What if she cant do it all? What if she develops perinatal depression or anxiety? What if she gets mastitis, or her husband has a really important business trip and the baby gets sick, what if it has an illness that means it needs extended hospitalisation?
Should we really be holding her to account for showing the world that women can do everything? Is that really fair?
To me Jacinta's announcement highlights the need for us to stop embracing women doing it all. Rather we need to relook at how we structure society. How are expectations of what is normal impacting the way we run our businesses and lives.
Now Hannah, how does any of this relate to my new years resolutions?!
If you think you are too small to make a difference, you should spend the night with a mosquito - African proverb
I firmly believe that each and every person should re-evaluate their own expectation of themselves.
Do you really need to achieve everything you put down for yourself? If you do work towards it, how well can you really do it alongside everything else that needs to get done?
I find goals fail for two reasons;
1) They're not in line with your real desires:
This year I'm going to get my bikini body! Really? Is that THE most important thing to you? If you are overweight then yes health and being fit could definitely be a priority if you wish, but who are you getting skinny for? Where is the motivation coming from?
2) They're not realistic
This year I'm going to;
- Keep my house clean
- Go for that job promotion
- Bake with my kids every week
- Make kids clothes from scratch
- Be more environmentally conscious
- Swear off meat
- Pre-cook all my meals and store them
- Get a puppy
- Have another baby
- Go on one family vacation each school holidays
- Sit with my kids and help them with their homework
- Do a PHD
- Make sure the kids play more and dont spend time in front of the screen
- Volunteer at a charity
- Get 8 hours sleep
- Drink more water
- Exercise every day
Phew I need a sleep just writing that!
What are these goals telling society, what are they telling other women?
And perfection is a clean house, disposable income, rock hard body, a troop of kids, plus pet, an environmental and social conscious, being an involved parent, having a great job, proving you are well educated, and looking freaking amazing whilst you do it all.
So I plead with you this - relook at your aspirations, your goals, your resolutions.
Imagine your best friend reading them out to you. Would you agree with her completing them or would you think she is being crazy? What are your aspirations saying to other women? Where are they coming from? Do they truly matter to you or are they a representation of what you think women SHOULD be able to do in a modern world?
Some ideas for family goals;
- One date night a fortnight for you and your partner (take turns planning so it isn't all on you to think up something to do!)
- One playdate a week where you take the kid/s somewhere new in your town (and relax about all the other times you don't get to devote 100% attention on them)
- Pick one energetic activity to do as a family at least 3 - 4 times per week. Could be a bike ride around the block after dinner, a scoot at the park, or a bounce on the trampoline. Then forget all the other times you're sitting inside not running around.
- Pick one thing at work you want to excel at. Something you'd like to really do well at. Do you want to book the most appointments? Get a 5 star review? Finally clear out your inbox? (me!)
Whatever it is, it isn't about being perfect. It isn't about what society wants to see you as. We are the people who create expectations for ourselves, our families, our friends, and our children. Let's start by being kind and making those expectations a bit more real-life.