I didn't grow up watching the Power Rangers. I was 15 in 1993 which made me feel too old to watch the show. Despite that I always liked the concept of the Green Ranger and I really came to respect Jason David Frank (JDF) as a human being, particularly in the last five years as my son became a big fan of the Power Rangers, particularly the Green Ranger.
His suicide has me thinking a lot about him and other men who have committed suicide recently. Another relatively recent suicide come to mind besides JDF - Anthony Bourdain. It is very hard for me to understand that choice. I want to explore what little I know about these men and try and understand the calculus that made dying preferable to living.
JDF had a tremendous amount of Charisma. There was something about him that drew even non fans into appreciating him. No doubt being a handsome man helped him in that regard. But there was an authenticity to his movement that I could subconsciously appreciate. JDF wasn't just the face of the Green Ranger he actually did all of his own fights as far as I'm aware. That lends an authenticity that is easy to love and appreciate. I guess that is also why Anthony Bourdain was so similarly loved. Not the choreography of course but the authenticity.
When we watched Bourdain we felt that we were seeing the real person. Whether we were or not is irrelevant we felt like we knew him. We felt that the mask he was presenting to the world was as close to the most authentic representation of him as we were going to see.
Both men also seemed to have significant problems with their partners and killed themselves in the wake of arguing. Anthony Bourdain had divorced a few years before and had a massive problem with his current girlfriend Asia Argento. Bourdain's alleged final text to Asia, back in 2018 was "you were reckless with my heart. My life".
JDF had been separated from his wife and had a massive fight with her the day that he committed suicide.
Divorced men are twice as likely to commit suicide as single or widowed men (1). Interestingly divorce status has no impact on women's likelihood to commit suicide. Maybe because 80% of divorces are initiated by women (2).
So while it isn't right to blame his wife it seems to me accurate to say that had his wife not initiated divorce proceedings it would be half as likely that JDF would have committed suicide.
I think women don't quite understand just how devastating it feels for a man to fight with a woman. Fighting with a woman feels very different than fighting with a man. A man can fight another man and yell and even punch him. We can directly confront, blame and even physically fight to work out our differences. Often times men who physically fight can become friends afterwards; there is something about knowing where you stand in a physical hierarchy that is somewhat comforting.
Men can't do that with women. We can't physically fight for any reason. Besides the strength differential the reality is that the world will never accept a man hitting a woman under any circumstances - even self defense isn't considered an acceptable reason.
And verbally arguing with women doesn't lead to much of a satisfactory resolution because we tend to have different modes of communicating. Men and women have different levels of freedom in terms of expressing hurtful things and women, in my decades of arguing with women of from varied cultures and nationalities, are well aware of this differential.
I'm not interested in assigning blame for anyone's personal actions, by the definition of the term nobody is forcing someone to pull the proverbial trigger, but I do want to understand how other people's actions help someone get to the point where they decide that this is an option that makes sense.
I also want to think through why these conversations are taboo - if we can't discuss these aspects of manhood and risk then we don't know how to help people who are at specifically high risk in a given moment in their life. Maybe being able to have those discussions could help people know who in their immediate vicinity they need to keep on their radar.
Like most things, this is easier said than done. I don't have the stomach to discuss something as morbid and depressing as suicide with anyone but maybe some close friends. I also don't want to try and navigate the emotional landmines that you would inevitably stumble on as you try and cross the tightrope between understanding and judging.
I think these conversations mostly need to happen between men. Not that women have little to say but this being a problem of men this is a set of conversations that need to happen between men. Men need to know this information and be able to look out for one another. We need to be there for each other when we get divorced or when our lives shift very abruptly. It seems like what happens is that men, who notoriously hate change, find their entire world changing. Too many men would rather end life than go through the pain of the huge shift in their lives.
Women have their challenges with suicide and mental health issues but they are different. Women might be more likely to reach out for help and make some kind of suicidal ideation but they are less likely to effectively follow through on it. When women try and commit suicide they are more likely to swallow a bunch of pills and then call someone to tell them that they did that. Men are more likely to jump off a building or shoot themselves; something more likely to complete the job.
People post these scripts on their social media saying "Feel free to reach out to me if you feel like you are at the end of your rope". These posts don't mean much of anything. The only meaningful action that we can take as individuals is to keep in touch with people that we care about and be conscious of major changes in their lives. Conscious caring is the only remedy that we have to help others.