Unintentional Suicide
What are some things that I might do to reduce my risk of unintentional suicide?

Actual causes of preventable deaths
Semicolon Campaign


Unintentional Suicide

Over 1,116M men will die this year. 24M of intentional suicide, and 536M beyond their control. The remaining 560M will die of what I call Unintentional Suicide. This is because more than half the causes of early death and disease are related to our lifestyle choices—what we do or don't do. 39% of preventable deaths involve tobacco, 28% diet and lack of activity, and 9% alcohol. The remaining 24% involve a variety of other activities including fire arms, sexual behavior and motor vehicles. The good news is that if we choose to, we have the ability to make healthy habits a part of our daily lives. Making the wrong choice is either a decision to die or a decision to not do what you could do to live - therefore making a decision to commit unintentional suicide.


More than half of American men get sick one to three times a year, think about the unhealthy food they eat and indulge anyway, eat fast food one to three times a week, and don't have a primary physician. These 500,000 men are committing unintentional suicide, along with another 500,000 who will die next year, and another 500,000 the year after that, and so on down the road unless something diverts their path. It's so necessary.

What are some things that I might do to reduce my risk of unintentional suicide?

How ever old you are, that's how many years you've been programmed by parents, teachers, religion, work, family, friends to be who you are today. I've been doing self-awareness work since 1976 when I joined the men's movement. And I am still finding patterns of negative behavior, buried deep inside me. Every time I am a participant in a workshop, something new from my past is discovered that doesn't serve me. And, I can choose to address it, dismantle it and find a better way, or I can choose to stay stuck. As much as I would like to claim I always take the high road, sorry. I'm still working on it.

There are other simple things that make a big difference. Cholesterol assessments, blood pressure checks, diabetes screenings, prostate cancer blood tests and exams, colon cancer screens and cardiovascular screens all make a difference and can result in earlier detection of disease, which in turn can raise survival rates. Treatments also tend to be less invasive, less expensive and less troublesome when illness is found early.

There are many other avenues you might take to reduce your risk of unintentional suicide. Don't just focus on one, but try a variety of different ways and techniques.

My suggestion is to listen to everyone of the people that you can during this Summit. Explore a road you haven't gone down yet - yoga, meditation, personal work, spiritual work Join a men's group, do therapy. There are literally thousands of paths you could walk. Try several new things. Each one may offer you the opportunity to shift. After all, your mind and your body don't want you to change one iota. They like you just the way you are. They know how to react to situations in your life - or, atleast they think they do.

What might inspire me to change?

If you have kids and still smoke, tape a picture of them to your pack of cigarettes?

If you drive recklessly or more than 5 miles over the speed limit - tape the photo near your speedometer or on your dash

Second, write your obituary. Review your life, what you think might be your cause of death, accomplishments you're proud of, how you want to be remembered, if you asked 20 people what they remember about you most, what are three of the most common themes you think they will mention? Include everything about your life that you can think of up to today.

Then, write a second obituary. What have you always wanted to do or learn or see or experience that you haven't.

Learn to play the clarinet, paint with water colors? Learn suduko or how to fly a place? Expand the kinds of music you listen to? Do what's necessary to take better care of your body, mind and soul? Go back to school? Get more involved in your community, charitable organizations, your spiritual preference?  There are thousands of things out there to do that you haven't tried yet. What are some of them? Diane Ackerman said, "Don't just live the length of your life, life the width of it as well."

By doing this second obituary, you have the opportunity to create your ideal future - your successes. By reading your own obituary, you can redefine just what your life was to mean, what you represent, and how you want to be remembered.

There's no time like the present to start on that journey before the accident that's waiting to happen, happens. Remember that the rapid pace of life is nothing to worry about - the abrupt stop at the end is.

Health issues to think about

For men 18-35, the five top ailments might surprise you: ring worm, ulcers, kidney stones, chlamydia and an irregular heart beat.

For men under 65 it's heart disease or stroke, cancer, pulmonary disease, pneumonia and diabetes.

"How are you feeling?" 

Asking this usually takes people out of their feelings and puts them in their head. Let people, including yourself, feel fully. Think of the "Wailing or Western wall" in Jerusalem or when watching Latin Americans or Iraques when they witness a family member having been killed.

Anger and violence

Anger and Violence are two different things. Anger is an emotion and a healthy one. Violence is a behavior and is just one of many behaviors that can be utilized when you are angry but it isn't a necessary one.

Suicide: 80% of suicide attempts are done by women. 80% of successful suicides are done by men because they have a hard time asking for help. Bill Winter's song, Lean on me, was one of my favorites until I realized that it was basically asking us to wait until another man asks for help. That waiting period is when men committed intentional suicide. I recently heard a new song by Matt Kennon that I wish every one who is in a men's group would buy and play it at the start of every meeting. The song is titled The Call, but it really should be called, Glad you called. You know a man going through a tough time? Out of work, getting a divorce, having trouble with addictive substances, whatever. Give him a call and simply invite him to a barbecue or to do something together. It might just be the opening he needs to change the dark thoughts that were on his mind.

Your mind and body don't want you to change.

They like you just the way you are because you're so predictable. They may conspire to make you think that you can't change, that it's too difficult, that you're not good enough. You need perseverance to make those changes and, my bet is, that a year from now, if not sooner, the change has happened and you're much happier because of it.


Number of male deaths in a year: 1,117,600

  • Heart 345,000
  • Malignant neoplasms 286,000
  • Cerebrovascular 65,000
  • Chronic lower respitory 64,000
  • Accidents - unintentional injuries 60,000
  • Diabetes 32,000
  • Influenza 27,000
  • Intentional self harm 24,000
  • Nephritis 18,000
  • Chronic liver 17,000
  • Alzheimers 14,000
  • Septicemia 14,000
  • Other 152,000  

Actual causes of preventable deaths

Tobacco 39%
Diet and Activity 28%
Alcohol 9%
Firearms 3%
Sexual behavior 3%
Motorr vehicles 2%
Other* 16%
Source: Journal of the American Medical Association

* It is believed that some fraction of fatal poisonings coded as unintentional or undetermined are actually suicides. Under-reporting of suicide has been attributed to factors such as pressure from families and subjectivity among coroners and medical examiners. As compared with firearms and suffocation, suicide by poisoning is considered to be particularly susceptible to underreporting. The rapid rise in unintentional poisonings in recent years has led some to wonder whether part of this increase represents misdiagnosed suicides.

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To die is poignantly bitter, but the idea of having to die without having lived is unbearable. - Erich Fromm

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