Talking About Men in Their Middle Years and Suicide
Recent data indicates around 80 percent of suicides in the United States are completed by men, and men between the ages of 50-59 have had a near 50 percent increase in suicides in recent years. Unemployment, relationship difficulties, social isolation, loss of a loved one and other life transitions are just a few of the factors that increase suicide risk among middle-aged men. Compounding the risk is the fact that this population has historically been reluctant to seek help.
On Wednesday, Sept. 2 — during the beginning of Suicide Prevention Month — the National Action Alliance for Suicide Prevention hosted a panel of leading suicide experts, influencers and men with personal experience with suicide. They discussed suicide among men in their middle years and how to better connect this population with critical sources of support.
Dwight Hollier, L.P.C.
Retired professional football player;
Vice President, Wellness and Clinical Services, NFL
Dwight Hollier is a Licensed Professional Counselor with extensive experience working with adolescents, families, and adults. He is also a former professional football player, having played nine seasons as a linebacker with the Miami Dolphins and the Indianapolis Colts before retiring after the 2000 season due to injury. In 2013 Dwight returned to the National Football League in a different capacity; he is now vice president of Wellness and Clinical Services in the league’s Player Engagement division, overseeing its Total Wellness initiative and its “Life” platform for current players. His mission is assisting current and former NFL players in achieving optimal wellness.
Sally Spencer-Thomas, PhD
Co-founder and CEO, Carson J. Spencer Foundation, ManTherapy.org;
Survivor Division Chair, American Association of Suicidology
Sally Spencer-Thomas looks at suicide from several perspectives: as a clinical psychologist, as a mental health advocate, and as a survivor of her brother’s suicide. She is the CEO and co-founder of the Carson J Spencer Foundation, named for her brother, a Denver business leader who died by suicide in 2004 after a difficult battle with bipolar disorder. Known nationally and internationally as an innovator in social change, the Carson J Spencer Foundation has helped start up multiple large-scale, gap-filling efforts in mental health — including Man Therapy™, a unique online resource aimed at helping middle-aged men.
Deb Stone, Sc.D., M.S.W., M.P.H.
Behavioral Scientist, Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, National Center for Injury Prevention and Control
Dr. Deborah Stone is a behavioral scientist in the Division of Violence Prevention at the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC). She has worked in suicide prevention in varying capacities for the past 15 years and is a CDC subject matter expert on the topic. She researches the risk and protective factors contributing to violence and suicide; collaborates on research studies evaluating the effectiveness of suicide prevention interventions; and provides consultation to CDC scientists, the media, and the public on evidence-based suicide prevention strategies, suicide epidemiology, and etiology.
Brett “Zach” Zachman
Speaking on personal experience
Brett “Zach” Zachman’s journey to self-discovery began in 2003, when he experienced a painful divorce and watched seven of his closest male friends do the same. He decided to turn the pain from his divorce into his purpose: to encourage others to seek help for mental health struggles. Zach believes that “to have courage is to have heart; to encourage is to give heart.” When he’s not at his job as a financial advisor, he helps men with their relationships as the founder of BeMen (short for the Brotherhood of Extraordinary Men), a support group based in Colorado. His goal in life is to positively impact one million people. He is happily divorced and raising his two teenage sons.
Jack Benson [Moderator]
Action Alliance EXCOM member
Co-lead, Public Awareness and Education Task Force
Jack Benson, a partner at Reingold, Inc., has more than 25 years of experience leading and advising companies, associations, and federal agencies on growth strategy, marketing and communications, and operational issues. He currently oversees several national mental health and suicide prevention campaigns, including the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs Make the Connection and Veterans Crisis Line initiatives. He serves as chairman of the board for the Military Family Advisory Network and trustee of the Washington Waldorf School. He is a member of the executive committee of the National Action Alliance for Suicide Prevention and is co-lead of its public awareness and education task force.