Increasing Rates of Suicide and Strive for Perfection

by courtney_viv on March 30, 2016 - 4:51pm

On July 27 2015, New York Times posted an article discussing how the suicide rates are increasing and the reason for it is because everyone strives to be perfect. According to the article suicide rates among 15 to 24 year olds have increased from 9.6 deaths per 100,000 to 11.1 deaths. A survey done by college counselors found that 50 percent of their clients have extremely bad cases of psychological problems such as anxiety and depression; it has risen by 13 percent in just two years. The people that are more pressured to seem perfect are female students since they feel as though they have to be smart, fit and popular without having proof that they put effort. According to Leon Festinger, a social psychologist, students tend to determine their personal worth on how they compare to others. This is all easily accessible since we have cellphones. Social media causes a lot of misperception, since everything looks better online. A person may actually see the “fake” person and not what that person may actually be feeling on the inside, thus people believe that their lives are glamourous when they might actually not be.

    The University of Pennsylvania has formed a peer counseling program to help students discuss issues they may be facing. Ten universities around the nation have joined together to research more into how they may be able to decrease the amount of suicides on campuses. Jed and Clinton Health Matters Campus Program, a nationwide program, has enlisted 90 different schools to develop mental health and wellness programs, easily accessible for any student. 

Comments

First of all, this is a great article in that it explains clearly that suicide is a serious social problem by providing a lot of statistics. In addition, because you mentioned in the article that students who have extremely bad psychological conditions are mostly females, I think it is also important to consider the gender issue in this situation.
According to the patriarchal world view, men should be dominant and women should be subordinate. They also have different gender roles to play in the society. For example, women must be beautiful and attractive. They need to have a perfect body, and as you mentioned, this gives girls a lot of pressure even if they are still students. Except psychological issues, some of them even have serious eating disorders.
Moreover, a lot of men are also victims. This patriarchal society requires them to be strong and virile all the time. Even if they realize that they have mental issues such as depression, they cannot seek help from the others because otherwise, they will be considered to be weak people, and then they are allowed to be bullied by other men who are physically strong, violent and sexually active. In reality, it can cause some terrible consequences such as school shootings.
In conclusion, suicide is a social but not an individual problem. We must consider the gender issue that hides behind it in order to prevent these tragedies. Here is the link to an article that discusses the relationship between bullying and gender which might be interesting for you to read: https://middleearthnj.wordpress.com/2013/05/06/gender-differences-in-bul...

First of all, I’d like to say that I love the title of your post! It provides a concise summary of your article, while being short enough to make me want to read more. I also appreciate that you’ve included details, such as precise statistics, dates, and ages regarding suicide and suicide victims.

That being said, I understand and agree that it is problematic that suicide rates have been rather substantially increasing amongst young persons throughout the past years and that this could be attributed to the rise of psychological problems. I believe, however, that this situation could be further analyzed by looking at the tropes of masculinity as social constructs.

Hegemonic masculinity is a type of masculinity defined by society (mostly in the Western world) that promotes male dominance over women and even other men. The most important characteristics of this form of masculinity are defined in what is called the “man box”, which contains qualities that a man must possess in order to conform and which is surrounded by femiphobic and homophobic insults to police those who do not conform. Some examples of qualities in the man box are violence, sexuality, power, and stoicism. The man box is complicated because it sends contradictory messages to men, and values some things (such as sexuality and physical strength) that some men will never achieve or will outgrow.

When men or young boys cannot perform masculinity as defined by society, they may frustrated and emasculated, which could lead to them wanting to prove their masculinity. This could occur by violently lashing out outwardly or inwardly. Furthermore, since hegemonic masculinity disproves of men expressing their emotions, many men do not seek help for their psychological problems.

In sum, analyzing this situation through a gendered lens leads us believe that the increased suicide rate in young men could be explained by their frustration at not being masculine enough and their inability to seek help due to gender constructs.

If you want to read up on hegemonic masculinity and its key characteristics, I invite you to take a look at this Wikipedia link.

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Hegemonic_masculinity

I like that you link two ideas together: “suicide and strive for perfection.” As such, it piqued my interest from the start, as you touched on some major issues of today’s society. I am not surprised by these data. However, I think the suicide problem is more likely to progress among men after middle age. According to Statistics Canada, men commit suicide at a rate three times higher than women (Health at a Glance statcan.gc.ca). The much higher rate of male suicide is a long-term pattern in Canada that has existed over the past 60 years. In addition, over 75% of the people who commit suicide throughout the western world are men. This discrepancy may be due to the fact that women tend to use less fatal methods, such as poisoning or cutting, whereas men tend to use more violent methods, such as hanging and firearms. Therefore, men are more likely to die from suicide, but women are three to four times more likely to attempt it. We should not forget that men are less likely to seek help for depression, because they believe it would compound their failure as men. Such striving for perfection affects women and men as well. So, it is in our responsibilities to change our ideologies and to be as we want to be instead of following society’s and media’s tendency. I would like to suggest to you an amazing article by Arthur Chu that looks at some issues through a nerd prism: http://www.thedailybeast.com/articles/2014/05/27/your-princess-is-in-ano...

Work Cited:
Navaneelan, Tanya.“Health at a Glance.” Statistics Canada. Statistics Canada. 27 Nov. 2015.
Web. 4 Apr. 2016

Hi, first and foremost, I liked reading your post and that you gave importance to the fact that “the people that are more pressured to seem perfect are female students” since suicide is an issue that is regarded from many perspectives and the gendered one is quite interesting.
As you’ve mentioned, the rise of anxiety leads to an increase in suicide rates, this can be linked to many things such as the need to conform to certain societal rules to not get marginalized throughout your life and essentially losing your privilege. As you’ve said, women need to be attractive to “fit in” society. This is also applicable for men and the social constructs around them.
The term “hegemonic masculinity” is used quite often when talking about men in masculinity. It is essentially a type of masculinity that promotes dominance over women and over weaker men. It is linked with the “man box”, a set of characteristics that a man has to conform to if he wants to be a “real man”.
A trait of this box is stoicism, which encourages being hard, calculating, logical, emotionless and passionless. Since the repression of feelings and emotions is promoted, stoicism leads to dangerous and impulsive behaviour such as suicide.
Furthermore, the “fake person” may also represent an ideal male beauty contract which would marginalize even more groups and advocate the cause of male hegemony. As you’ve mentioned, by exerting social pressure to certain genders and comparing yourself to others, the need to exceed and do out-give yourself is implied and imperative.
Thus, as masculinity discourages men from seeking the rightful help needed, it creates a massive amount of victims globally that are susceptible to higher chances of impulsive and violent behaviours.
The following link leads to a more detailed article explaining more deeply the issues related to the man box and the contradictions it may have with the ideals that we have in mind when we think of an equal society. (an illustration of the man box is also present in the link under)
Thank you for reading~
http://www.huffingtonpost.com/good-men-project/traditional-manhood_b_807...
https://aphroditerises.files.wordpress.com/2014/02/themanbox.jpg

I would like to point out that this was a very well written article and your arguments are backed up by the multiple statistics that you have provided in your article.

Sadly, those statistics are still increasing and suicide rates will keep increasing if society does not change. I agree that social media does play a tremendous role on supporting a gender social construct that has been created in our society. Yes, social media publicizes it but, a social construct of men and women has been created by us. Social media will not be the change until us, as a society, change. Both men and women face pressure to follow the ideal body that has been constantly publicized on social media, as well as the behavior they should follow. As mentioned before, not only are suicide rates increasing but men account for 75% of the suicides in the western world, which I believed is caused by the “man box”. Men believe that they need to obey the social constructs of sexuality, power and violence. Another reason suicide rates are increasing among men is because of the idea that they must hide their failures and emotions which tends to lead to depression and suicide.

In my opinion, women have less of a fear of opening up to others which could result in fewer suicides. All in all, I believe that gender social constructs are the root cause of suicides and the only way to improve these statistics is by society working as a whole to destroy any ideal perceptions of how a person should be and that the term “perfection” is an illusion created by society.
If you are interested in reading further on the subject of gender social construct, I found this very interesting article that I think is worth reading and once again, I enjoyed reading your article!
https://othersociologist.com/sociology-of-gender/

Hello,

Firstly I enjoyed reading your post, the statistics about the recent suicide rate amongst people at such a young age is really shocking and also deeply troubling. It really is unfortunate that despite all the effort that has been put into preventing suicide, there is not much positive results.

Secondly, while the easy access to the internet and the constant connection to social media may be contributing factors to the strive for perfection, I believe that this is also related to gender issues and the expectations of patriarchy. The ideas of what is considered ‘perfection’ for both women and men are social constructs made up to fit into the patriarchal world view. As a society, we are no strangers to the stereotypes of how women should be. Being pretty, thin, irrational, emotional, weak, passive and submissive are just some of the clichés expected from women; it is what being feminine means according to the patriarchal world view. Men on the other hand have to the exact opposite of women, they are expected to fit into the ‘Man Box’. The ‘Man Box’ consists of a list of qualities that define and reinforce hegemonic masculinity. Some of these qualities includes being strong, forceful, active, menacing, emotionless and dominating. These concepts are so present in our daily lives that we think of them as natural, innate qualities of femininity and masculinity, the failure to meet those expectation is almost never acceptable. Those who fail are punished by the society, often by means of exclusion and/or humiliation.

Therefore,social media is not the direct and only cause of young people’s need to strive to be perfect, young people seek for acceptance and approval; patriarchy is the cause for the strive for perfection. The consequences and pressure of the failure to demonstrate the perfect femininity and masculinity, be it online or in real life, leads to the increasing rate of suicide in young people.

Here are some links that might help you better understand the ‘Man Box’ and gender stereotypes:
http://cbuethics.blogspot.ca/2014/11/the-man-box.html
http://talkitover.in/self/gender-stereotypes/