UMB’s Frey, Mich. Leaders Shine Hope on Reducing Men’s Suicide

October 22, 2018    |  

In Michigan, men die four times more often from suicide than women, and suicide is the second-leading cause of death among working-aged men ages 25-34 (fourth cause of those ages 35-49). The statistics are just as alarming across the country, as suicide was the 10th-leading cause of death in 2016, claiming over 45,000 lives (Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), WISQARS Leading Causes of Death Reports).

Leaders throughout Michigan are working together with Maryland researcher Jodi Jacobson Frey, PhD, LCSW-C, CEAP, associate professor at the University of Maryland School of Social Work, to prevent suicide and encourage men to see that taking control of their mental health and well-being is not a sign of weakness and actually a very masculine thing to do.

On average, there are 123 suicides per day in the United States, with the rate among males being nearly four times higher than among females (CDC, WISQARS Leading Causes of Death Reports). Experts say multiple factors contribute to the high risk for men, including but not limited to men's tendencies to minimize signs of suicide and depression. Additionally, seeking traditional mental health services has not historically aligned well with popular definitions of masculinity, thereby leaving many men to struggle in silence, feeling more isolated and hopeless with their pain.

Two years ago, researchers at the University of Maryland and in partnership with organizations throughout Michigan, including Kevin’s Song, launched Healthy Men Michigan (, an online anonymous screening website for depression and suicide funded by the CDC.

In just two years, more than 225 groups and organizations across the state have joined the campaign to promote Healthy Men Michigan. One of its strongest partners, Kevin’s Song, is a growing nonprofit organization committed to raising awareness about the causes of suicide and preventing further suicide deaths.

“When our son Kevin died by suicide in 2013 at the age of 41, my husband John and I were shocked and devastated,” said Kevin’s Song co-founder Gail Urso. “In dealing with our grief, we discovered that suicide was prevalent in our society and over 41,000 people in 2013 would end their lives. We learned that while there are so many wonderful organizations working to prevent suicides, sadly, there is still a stigma around suicide and mental illness that prevents people from reaching out for help. We vowed to do something about these problems and founded Kevin’s Song to empower communities to prevent suicide and offer hope and healing to survivors.

“Through our annual conferences, documentary films, workshops and presentations, and by bringing together the many resources that exist to prevent suicide, Kevin’s Song is making a difference and, in so doing, honoring Kevin’s memory,” Urso continued.

Kevin’s Song invited Healthy Men Michigan to participate in a documentary about important work being done to prevent suicide throughout the state called Singing Kevin’s Song. It will air Friday, Nov. 2, at 5:30 p.m. ET on regional PBS stations throughout Michigan. Singing Kevin’s Song profiles three boots-on-the-ground individuals working to educate, train, and inspire those at the highest risk for suicide: youth, teens, and working-age men.

Healthy Men Michigan is proud to have a strong partnership with Kevin's Song, and the two will unite again Nov. 8-10 at the third annual conference on suicide in Plymouth. provides free and anonymous screening and help-seeking tools to reduce suicide ideation and behavior. The ability to access the tools and resources quickly, privately, and anonymously serves to remove a number of potential barriers to getting help.

“Suicide is a public health problem and deserves a comprehensive and public health approach to prevention. is one step in working to reach men wherever they might be, whenever they are ready for help — we can no longer wait for men to come to us for help” said Frey, principal investigator for the Healthy Men Michigan project. To date, approximately 6,000 men in Michigan, many of whom are reporting risk factors for depression and suicide and are not currently connected to any formal mental health support services, have completed the screening and are being introduced to resources in their local communities.

For those interested in becoming a partner in working to reduce suicide rates in Michigan through the campaign, please contact Jodi Frey at

For media inquiries, please contact University of Maryland, Baltimore (UMB) Senior Media Relations Specialist Mary T. Phelan at 443-615-5810 or to schedule an interview.

Healthy Men Michigan is supported by the Cooperative Agreement Number, 1 U01 CE002661-01, funded by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Its contents are solely the responsibility of the authors and do not necessarily represent the official views of the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention or the Department of Health and Human Services.