I saw a very sad headline the other day (Metro, January 23rd 2013).
It said “Male suicide at 10-year high as recession bites”.
That’s the sort of thing, suicide, depression, anxiety, that people associate with psychologists, but it’s not something I deal with. As I’ve explained before, I’m not a therapist, counselling psychologist, etc.
So I can only look on and feel sad when I see that sort of thing.
But it encouraged me, to an extent, that Professor Stephen Platt, a Samaritan trustee had publicly stated something that I think is really important.
He said that it suicide was a social, as well as mental health issue.
People seem to think that it’s all about mental health, all we have to do is provide support and make people “stronger” and it won’t be a problem. Professor Platt seems to have realised that that isn’t true.
I said in the first chapter of Taming the Pound
“We all have individual attitudes, shaped by our personal experiences, our parents, our peer group, our gender and biology, the society we live in and our political beliefs. And those attitudes give money a lot more importance for us than just a tool to obtain things. We can see money as the answer to our prayers (or a temptation from something evil), as a symbol of our masculinity or femininity, as something to be hidden away and not talked about, or a thing to be boasted about.”
If we see it as a symbol of masculinity (for example) if we don’t have much money, does that mean we’re not much of a man?
And Professor Platt seems to agree, making the comment:
“Samaritan’s research shows men judge themselves by a gold standard of masculinity set by society, and when they can’t meet these expectations they can feel worthless and that there is no reason for them to live”
For once, I don’t feel much satisfaction at being able to say “I told you so”, this is just too sad. People are, quite literally, dying for money. Not even for money, but for a vision of what money means.
And we all know it. I also told a story in Taming the Pound:
“As an example of the socially set attitudes to money and incomes, I was once asked to comment on some couples’ financial history for a magazine article. The woman of one couple worked for a bank as a senior manager and earned a six-figure salary. In her comments, she said she hadn’t revealed her income to her partner for some months after they started seeing one another; she let him think she was quite junior and earned less than him. In fact, the man earned less than his partner and made a point of defending himself from censure, by commenting that he made sure he paid his way and wasn’t “living off” his partner.
Hiding her high income was, in my experience, typical of high earning women; but would a man do the same? Being male, and at the risk of sounding crass, I can say that earning lots of money is something I’d be tempted to boast about to attract women, not play down to avoid scaring them off! Similarly, would a woman apologise or be defensive about her partner earning a lot or be tempted to boast about it?
She seemed to be concerned whether money threatened her relationship security; he wondered if people would feel it made him less masculine and have lower status.
It’s a social norm, which I suspect we can all understand, but if we think of money only as having the same objective value for all of us and that it doesn’t have biological and social values woven in, it doesn’t make sense. “
We can all understand it – the scary thing is that we can, we can all understand why somebody would feel emasculated, so we can all understand why somebody would commit suicide because they don’t measure up to some gold standard, a symbolic icon of what money means.
But money isn’t supposed to be a idol to worship, it’s supposed to be a means to an end – that’s why this site (and the book) has the subtitle “make money your servant, not your master”.
Are we all a bit too ready to understand that, for many of us, it is still the boss? And are we sufficiently aware that we will potentially kill ourselves worshiping it instead of putting it in its rightful place as our servant?