Suicide Deaths and Education Reveal
Growing Need for Male Gender Council

January 31, 2021

by Sean Kullman

Picture by Timothy Eberly is not of Hayden Hunstable

My wife and I returned from a wedding late one night. She was tired and headed off to bed. I was restless, so I decided to read some emails and get a jump on the week ahead. At the time, I was teaching at a university in Philadelphia. One of my students missed class and informed me and the rest of his teachers he was heading home early for the weekend because he was feeling depressed and suicidal. It was a group email regarding suicidal thoughts. In all my years of teaching, it was certainly the most concerning email I ever received from a student. I called the school’s infirmary and was contacted by a professional who told me the situation would be handled. But I left the phone call feeling uneasy. I woke up early and paced my house before deciding to call the student’s parents directly. I introduced myself and shared his email. The parents had not been contacted by the school, and their son had just taken the car to go out.

I learned later they called him in the car and asked him to return home for some trivial reason before sitting down and discussing his email. The boy withdrew from school and went into treatment. To this day, I wonder how he is doing.

Recent Attention on Male Suicides and School Lockdowns

When Brad Hunstable posted a video about the loss of his 12-year-old boy, Hayden, it brought the social isolation and suicide deaths associated with COVID to the forefront. Suicide among school-aged children is becoming a larger concern as lockdowns extend. In Clark County Nevada, the number of suicides doubled from the previous year. Notable was the increase in suicides as school lockdowns wore on and children felt increasingly isolated.

A New York Times article by Erica Green, “Surge of Student Suicides Pushes Las Vegas Schools to Reopen,” focused on the increased suicides that may be associated with school lockdowns and feelings of isolation. Although the article concentrated on Clark County, Nevada and identified a few students from other places in the country, all six victims in the article were male. For those familiar with boys and men’s issues, eyebrows raised after reading Green’s article because advocates immediately recognized all the victims were male. One has to wonder, was Ms. Green aware of this fact? Or was Ms. Green sending a message: our boys are in trouble and we better do something about it.

Stories sensitive to boys and men’s issues have not been a consistent narrative in the Times for decades and happen quite infrequently. When stories include one gender in particular, it’s not uncommon to reference more detailed statistics. This did not happen in the Times article. Fuller exposés on boys and men is not common practice in much of public narratives and social policies. Higher male-suicide-deaths have been known for decades. Despite this knowledge, government policy continue to exclude boys and men.

A review of data from the Centers for Disease Control reveals that males accounted for 78% of all suicide deaths from 2009 to 2018 (Table 1). The numbers of school-aged children and college-aged children suffering from depression and suicide, specifically boys and young men, should be setting off alarm bells.

GIBM looked at suicide deaths of boys and girls 10-14 years-of-age and 15 to 24 years-of-age from 2009 to 2018 to get a clearer understanding of the data. Boys 10 to 14 years-of-age accounted for 66% of suicide deaths (Table 2). During the same period, suicide deaths among boys 15 to 24 years-of-age was 81% (Table 3). For every female suicide death there were 4.2 male suicide deaths. Feelings of despair, isolation, and self-worth surge for boys who feel a real lack of purpose. The same often holds true for older men, ages 65 to 74 and 75 and over who represent 80% and 87% of suicide deaths respectively in their age groups. There are few narratives championing boys and men's policies. Suicide data as well as opioid data reveals that boys who should be thinking of promising futures and opportunities are more marginalized than ever. Older men, who should be indulging in the wisdom of their age, find it harder to approach and settle into the golden years with a sense of appreciation and welcome. The social and political narrative has been abrasive to nearly all boys and men.

Inclusive policies and councils do more than help people and ensure equal protections. They acknowledge that we all matter. For those rightly disappointed about the new White House Gender Policy Council’s exclusion of boys and men, suicide data and school data are two of the many reasons to push for a dramatic policy change at local, state, and federal levels regarding boys and men.

The lack of action speaks to a larger social avoidance of male issues and the need for more women to step-up and into the arena of defending boys and men. More men need to be willing to take greater risks, make stronger political stances, address their political leaders, and demand greater political action. The time is now for basic human rights afforded to all citizens, male and female.

National Suicide Prevention Hotline: 800-273-8255

To learn more about Brad Hunstable's Son Hayden,

go to Hayden's Corner

Ways to donate to the Global Initiative for Boys and Men

  • Credit Card Donation through Pay Pal and Donorbox

  • Amazon Smiles: List Global Initiative for Boys and Men as your charity of choice and a percentage of all purchases will support the GIBM.

  • Mail checks to Global Initiative for Boys and Men, Mailbox 337, 685 Spring St., Friday Harbor, WA 98250