Can the mid-life crisis men experience push them on the brink of suicide?

drawing by @pig.mailon

When I began writing this I was sat in a barber shop. Whilst eavesdropping on pretty loud conversation (as there were only 4 of us in the room), I soon discovered it is the safest space for middle aged men that talk about their problems. Break-ups, divorce, financial difficulties but not all things bad.

“You must know what you want!”. “Is this god’s plan?”. “ Le cœur de l’homme est plein de projets seulement les descendants de dieu les réalisent.” Are life changing words I took away from a conversation being had between a barber and his loyal customer, as he was shaping up my little brother’s big head.

We may have all been exposed to this notion that society encourages young boys to be men by not crying, showing emotion or talking about the struggles they deal with. and that women are allowed to be too emotional, but cannot express that emotion without being labelled as crazy or to be overreacting. As a black women is it even more of a shame for us to express emotion without being labelled as the angry black woman. So what do we say about black men when they channel their emotions?

The urban dictionary definition of a ‘mid-life crisis’: when a person regrets how they have lived his or her life, and they attempt to ‘correct’ their mental issue in a variety of ways which usually always harms themselves or those closest to them. Another definition: a midlife crisis is a transition of identity and self confidence that can occur in middle aged individuals, typically 45–64 years old.

A year ago this month my family suffered a great loss. My step-dad took his life, adding to the suicide rates of males in the UK that goes untalked about. Many factors lead to what we felt was a sudden death, but from observation and conversations it is clear to see him as a man that had been going through a mid-life crisis. He suffered from depression and couldn’t see an alternative to solving what might’ve felt like long term problems.

The way mental health is talked about in the media is quite demonising, and we see this very clearly with every piece of covereage on Kanye West. A black man in his 40’s who suffers from bi-polar disorder is constantly targeted by the press. Though controversial are most of his thoughts, that he likes to express in the land of free speech. He is still heavily criticised despite it being public knowledge that he suffers from mental health issues, his words are often taken out of context and weaponised. Should he be demonised for expressing his true self?

I think for a black man in his position and power to be be heard despite, us disagreeing with him is important for many other black men. If men are conditioned to shut up, never expressing their true emotions without fear… they could grow up to resent themselves, develop major mental illnesses and possibly later on in life project that anger and pain where it shouldn’t be dealt with. Resent themselves in the sense that, because black men are already looked at in a certain light some of the choices they make may not necessarily make them happy.

As a fan of Hip-hop/ Rap I watch many interviews with rappers that talk about the success they’ve achieved throughout their 20–30’s. Which often means money and access to live beyond their means. People say money isn’t the key to happiness but money does solve a lot of problems and it simply allows the option of living freely without contraints.

Just a thought as I’m beginning to realise the major life altering decision making that goes on in our 20’s, may not actually be the decisions we want to stick with when we reach that mid-life stage. Reaching a point in life where you haven’t accomplished some of your biggest dreams is easily some mens biggest fear, that can lead to a mid-life crisis. Certain men that can’t turn back from some of their decision making unfortunately may choose to end having to make decisions altogether.

The same day at the barbershop I began to view haircut appointments as some kind of free 30 minute therapy. I became incredibly appreciative of this dear moment I was witnessing, to my small mindedness it seemed unconventional for men to have a full on hash out in such setting. But black men supporting black men *inserts hand shake emoji*. Although it’s been happening for years, and in movies we see men conversing in barbershop it didn’t occur to me that men can give some of the greatest advice and support here too.

UAL BA Journalism Grad: carlaaureliem@gmail.com

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