Is white privilege causing old white men to kill themselves?
A new study by a CSU prof suggests white American men may be killing themselves more than other demographics because of relative social comforts and cultural assumptions about what being a “real man” looks like.
Old white men can count themselves among the victims of white male privilege. They kill themselves at a higher rate than any other demographic in the United States, though they have more resources than older white women and ethnic minorities.
Relative lifelong social comfort may explain the fragility of older white males’ emotional state when dealing with “the indignities of aging,” suggests a new study by Colorado State University professor of psychology, Silvia Sara Canetto, who has spent her career studying cultural narratives of suicide.
White men tend to have a rigid sense of who they are, Canetto says. They feel obliged to act out the social script of masculinity: no belly aching, no mourning, just suck it up and deal — and if you can’t suppress your emotions, do the heroic thing and quit.
Canetto’s study looks at two cases: George Eastman, the founder of Kodak, who died by suicide at 77, and gonzo journalist Hunter S. Thompson, who killed himself at 67.
“The dominant story was that their suicide was a rational, courageous, powerful choice,” Canetto said in a statement.
The phenomenon of older men — white or not — killing themselves at higher rates is not global, said Canetto. In China, young adult women have the highest suicide rates.
Marco Belli, Creative Commons, Flickr.
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