Breasts, prostates, suicide and old white guys.

October 7, 2014

A letter to the editor. By Jim Thomas.

Breasts, Prostates, Suicide and Old White Guys.

That’s a pretty curious combination.

I’m an old white guy. That’s been my mantra for a year or two now. I have Medicare.  I remember the Summer of Love, Kent State, and stepping with my gal to sweet soul music (we still do sometimes). Most of my friends are old white guys, by and large a harmless group. We are more a danger to ourselves than to others.  My guess is that by now most of us know someone that died from  breast  cancer, prostate cancer or suicide, at least one of those or maybe all three. My guess is that most of you have too.  One of the ways we show our support is by the ribbons and colors we wear.

Ribbons and Colors

Breast Cancer.  The color is pink.  I’m pretty sure that 100% of you got that right.

Prostate Cancer.  The color is light blue.  Not many people would have guessed that one right.  My old white guy friends didn’t know it either.

Suicide Prevention. The colors are purple and turquoise.  To be honest I didn’t know the colors.

Mortality Rates

This is one of those things where a high score is not good. The rates are the number of deaths per 100,000 people. Lot of women die from breast cancer. The mortality rate for breast cancer in Michigan in 2012 was 22. If you think of the Rose Bowl with 100,000 women in it about 22 of those women would die from breast cancer. In 2012 the mortality rate for prostate cancer in Michigan was 19. If you had 100,000 men at the Rose Bowl, 19 of those men would die from prostate cancer.

Let’s use the man example again. The mortality rate for suicide for men in Michigan in 2012 was 21 (it is about five for women). Think of the Rose Bowl again, if you had 100,000 men 19 would have died from prostate cancer and 21 would have died of suicide. I found it amazing that more men die of suicide than from prostate cancer and that almost as many men die from suicide as women die from breast cancer. If I am an old white guy the suicide rate is even higher, we are into the mid 20s.

What to Do

Here is my message.  You can’t do much to cure a friend’s prostate cancer. You may be able to save a friend from suicide. If a friend has hit a rough patch and you think he may be thinking of suicide ASK him directly, “Have you been thinking of suicide?”  Your friend will appreciate it. If you’re the guy who has hit the rough patch you don’t need to face it alone.  If you don’t know what to do call the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline at 1-800-273-TALK. Someone will help.

Jim Thomas, Hamlin Township

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