Suicide: Another Masculinity Mandate

Throughout history, suicide has had different interpretations, some more complex than others, which allows us today to ask ourselves: is suicide an act of resistance of twentieth century masculinity? The enunciation has a reckless analytical complexity, since, if so, what we should ask ourselves is what level of consciousness there is in this act of resistance, because in this case what is resisted is a type of construction of identity that, whether we like it or not, is questioned, is increasingly cornered against the wall, with a sense of term, of defining sentence.
Beyond what could be understood as a profile, the central thing – in my opinion – is to prefigure a context: what makes these forms of resolution understandable today? Solution in the sense of prior overwhelm; debts, love breakup, existential crisis, consumption, etc., etc., where the suicidal action becomes in itself an escape valve.
How do we understand this phenomenon? The first reaction or response we give ourselves is in the sphere of psychologization: it could not solve the problem, it did not overcome the burden, it was bad, etc.; and what is spoken is redirected, redirected through a mentalization of a positive thinking or, on the other hand, psychiatrization: the disorder was not diagnosed, he stopped taking his drugs, he was depressed, etc., in this case the word is not heard and, therefore, the subject does not emerge with his demand.
These views, although sometimes necessary to face extreme situations (acute crises), do not manage to develop a treatment program or form an intervention program, which makes sense to both men and women, and are constituted, therefore, as proposals for a failed therapeutic. The difficulties in granting therapeutic spaces, which have a more comprehensive look, different from those dominant in public care centers, favor abandonment, refractoriness, NSP (it is not presented).
It is evident that a percentage close to 45% of suicides consult or have been linked to a mental health program (Kposowa, 2003). A figure no less, if we observe that one of the objectives to reduce suicides is to grant therapeutic offers. In short, what happens is that people try to get out of the overwhelming situation, consult, give themselves to therapeutic work, but for a significant percentage it is not enough. What is it that makes these programs not impact in the expected way? There is evidence of a distance between the demand for care, understood as the content of the demand and the supply of a therapeutic, something is not between these two dimensions, in other words, the person in problem does not find what he is looking for, does not make sense, something that, in itself, is not entirely the responsibility of the therapeutic teams, because even the one who demands is not very clear about what he needs to solve.
In recent times we could point out that there are post-pandemic effects or, to put it another way, the pandemic has contributed to a feeling of fragility and overwhelm. It is this idea of fragility that manifests itself in many and varied ways. It would be expressed in an increase in aggressiveness or decrease in tolerance, feeling of uncertainty, etc., etc., but these situations – in our opinion – are the manifestation of a more superficial layer, it is the epidermis of a complex and deeper social dilemma. It is in this sense that the pandemic and all its complexity has only been a trigger, a trigger for even intrapsychic situations (which are otherwise constituted in social interaction), which require, for their approach, spaces of attention and therapeutic containment that, in short, is the creation of a community of affections, which allows us to have a support, a kind of mattress that makes the fall less harmful.
What elements constitute this picture? This perfect storm wanders through the phenomena of the construction of subjectivity, which in the last cases that arise (two in Iquique, one in Arica, one in Santiago, the last two adolescents), challenges certain masculinities, prefiguring a discomfort product of a masculine mandate (Segato, 2019), which does not resist.
Certain figures suggest that men consult less than women for mental health problems and that it is men who specify more than women (NVDRS, 2016). There seems to be a gender bias in the act of suicide. It is in this sense that the old but current saying, “men they don’t cry,” could be an indicator that a certain masculinity is more thrown into a suicidal-type solution. The identity desolation in which we find ourselves the men of this twenty-first century, has an abysmal depth, which makes plausible the emptiness of the space of three people.
When analyzing the numbers of people in suicidal acts, and contact with mental health teams, they indicate that it is women who consult the most. In this sense underlies this idea of masculinity referred to by Segato, who points out that man is measured by his own peers (spectacle of power, hierarchy, male fraternity, ideal of man) and what is measured is his capacity for protection, sexual potency, hierarchy in care, each of which distance men from locating us as fragile people, sufferers, sufferers, dependents and, in short, they take us away from the position of help, from putting ourselves in the analytical and therapeutic disposition of another subjectivity.
Somehow, this idea of being the object of help makes us feel less men, less representatives of that masculine identity, which has been built to us with beatings, mockery and contempt, but also privileges, for centuries (Segato, 2013). An attitude that is hidden, at times, is misogyny, which is taught in children’s games and physical challenges at an early age. This in short could be at the base of the resistance to look in another way at what happens to us, to locate ourselves as people who suffer and who do not have all the tools or the power to solve it alone, recognizing this fragility understood as “weakness” will be a great turn in the possibility of a new masculinity. What Lutereau pointed out, in relation to the fact that “man has died”, makes sense, that powerful man and provider of the twentieth century has died, but the fear remains, according to Gramsci, that in those chiaroscuros of changes it may happen that in this new construction or this macho and patriarchal man who continues to carry out increasingly violent acts and public acts is crystallized, or it gives way to a new and renewed masculinity, which is not afraid to ask for help, which does not suffer or suffer with it, but above all, which does not cease to be a man.
Indeed, the possibility of having more favorable contexts for life is of a long-term scope, of the type of a paradigmatic change, which places both men and women in a dimension of non-competition, of non-submission, of non-violence. This subjective position should allow an identity construction different from the current masculinity, marked or influenced by centuries of patriarchal and sexist domination; these logics of sexual potency, success and social recognition, solvency and economic certainty, misogyny, etc., etc. We see suicidal overwhelm in this identity conformation, which distances the search for support, or conditions it, hides it in the consumption of drugs compulsively, in the reckless courage of “the first line”, in the violent resolution of conflicts, etc., etc.
Reflecting on these elements, we believe, will allow us to locate certain social determinants for a better and more protective mental health, to understand that the condition of social class, gender, ethnicity and age group, are basal to reference a less expulsive and more welcoming care program, which puts at the center of attention these determinants and the nineteenth-century subject and their complexities. In short, we postulate a community of care, a relationship of mutual support, that is part of the place where one lives, which is not contradictory to the idea that some will need to go to more specific containment spaces, care centers for people with mental health problems, but of this issue, of these centers and their therapeutics, we will talk on another occasion.

The content expressed in this opinion column is the sole responsibility of its author, and does not necessarily reflect the editorial line or position of El Mostrador.

Original source in Spanish

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