Stand Together: Talking About Suicide

Talking About Men in Their Middle Years and Suicide

Experts discussed the issue of suicide in this hard-to-reach demographic group

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. Check out the full audio of the conference call and other information and resources related to the discussion are available on this page.

Panelists included:


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,;
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.

Download all panelist bios


Join the conversation on social media: use #SuicideReporting

Resources for Journalists

Information and Data

Recommendations for Reporting on Suicide
Recommendations for responsible coverage of suicide, developed by leading experts in suicide prevention, public health, media organizations, and others.

Five ways to prepare your newsroom to cover suicide effectively
Five quick tips from Poynter for journalists covering suicide.

Advanced training on covering suicide and mental Health
The Poynter Institute offers a free course to help journalists and reporters gain a better understanding of mental health conditions, mental illness and covering suicide.

Suicide facts and figures
The American Foundation for Suicide Prevention offers the latest statistics on suicide by age, gender, ethnicity, and state.

Survey about mental health and suicide in the United States
Results of a recent national online survey on mental health, anxiety, and suicide, conducted by the American Foundation for Suicide Prevention, Anxiety and Depression Association of America, and National Action Alliance for Suicide Prevention.

CDC report on suicide in adults aged 35-64
A report published by the CDC in 2013 that examines trends in suicide rates among men aged 35-64 between 1999 and 2010.

2015 research on rising suicide rates among adults aged 40-64 years
A recent report published in the American Journal of Preventive Medicine that examines the external factors that may impact the growing rates suicide among of middle-aged men.

Additional information about suicide from the CDC
Definitions, data, and additional information and resources from the CDC.

Related Resources

American Foundation for Suicide Prevention
The American Foundation for Suicide Prevention, a national network comprised of 75 chapters, funds research, creates educational programs, advocates for public policy, and supports survivors of suicide loss.

The Brotherhood of Extraordinary Men, or BeMen, helps men work through a variety of wellness issues, including emotional, financial, mental, physical, and spiritual challenges.

Carson J Spencer Foundation
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

Man Therapy™
Man Therapy™ is an innovative resource to help men deal with a variety of life challenges and educate them about the realities of mental health and suicide. The site features an online self-assessment to help identify appropriate resources.

MassMen is a comprehensive resource for men residing in Massachusetts, and their loved ones, offering statewide mental health information, resources, and online self-assessments.

NFL Life line
The NFL Life Line is an independent, confidential, 24/7 support hotline (800-506-0078) and online chat service for members of the NFL family, including current and former players, coaches, team and league staff, and their family members.

National Suicide Prevention Lifeline
Any person in crisis or concerned about someone in crisis can call 1-800-273-TALK (8255) for immediate, free, confidential support.

Working Minds
Working Minds promotes mental health and suicide awareness in the workplace, and provides tools and networks to workplaces to assist with suicide prevention, intervention, and postvention.

Listen/See the Conversation

Download full audio of the discussion

Discussion transcript


Additional Resources for Journalists

For additional information or to contact a panelist, email


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