Men and Stress: Real Housewives’ Husband Russell Armstrong Commits Suicide

Some of you may not know of or watch the “Real Housewives” reality shows of American television on the Bravo network. These “unscripted” television shows feature people who are willing to air their dirty-laundry on national television in personal joys, losses and family secrets and relationship battles. At times, these lipstick-gladiators in their Christian Louboutin and Jimmy Choo shoes are willing to battle their BFF’s (best female friends) and family members to get great ratings and assure their place in TV’s night-time line up. And, their husbands come along for the ride, it seems, but not without serious consequences, for a few of them.

"Real Housewives" Husband, Russell Armstrong Commits Suicide

Sadly, yesterday, August 16th, 2011 reality television suffered a truly unscripted event. Russell Armstrong, Taylor’s husband of the Beverly Hills Housewives’ show committed suicide. If you follow the show, and know a little something about men’s psychology, you can see in a review of things how Russell Armstrong’s downward turn in life events might lead him to take his life. His financial and legal problems and the collapse of his marriage and personal life unraveling before the public’s eyes on night time TV foreshadowed his emotional problems and downfall. This when combined with his shy, reserved, and emotionally constrained  personality proved to be more than Mr. Armstrong could bear. I am sad for Mr. Armstrong and Taylor and his children that he left behind.

The topic of my post today is about men and stress. Men and women handle their stress very differently. There are risks of stress common to men that we need to understand better so that we can be more sensitive to the warning signs in our male family members, friends, and coworkers that says they are at risk for self-injury.

No matter the evolution of gender roles in society today, men still define themselves as bread-winners, even in a two-income household. Women tend to define themselves more broadly in terms of role-definition. “For 3 million years, men have been the hunters and protectors, explains Dr. Helen Fisher, a biological anthropologist at Rutgers University. Around the world, from the Zulus to Eskimos, women look for men who provide resources. When men lose that profoundly basic role and purpose, they get depressed. Women get depressed over finances too but express their depression much differently. (Read More about Depression in Men & Women)

Women tend to deal with stress by “tending and befriending” research says. Whereas, men shut down. Women also cope with their stress through good self-care, like working out, eating well, getting more rest and seeing friends and family for social support. Men escape through alcohol, drugs, gambling and sex or close up emotionally and isolate.

Researchers say this difference boils down to one hormone alone called oxytocin that tends to modify the fight or flight response to stress. Women have more oxytocin than men that is why their response to stress turns from fighting or fleeing to tending and befriending.

What happened to Russell Armstrong can happen to a lot of men, if the circumstances are right.Today, more of us have taken a hit financially through job loss, bad investments, or some other unfortunate circumstance. And, whenever there are money problems, relationship conflicts follow, as money is one of the main things that couples argue about.

My message today is to become more aware of men and their unique response to stress. There may be a male family member, friend or coworker who needs your understanding of what he is going through. I leave you today with five supportive things you can do, to make his plight more bearable. You just may be an Angel to him coming along at the right time with the right message, like Clarence was to George Bailey in Di Capra’s movie, It’s a Wonderful Life.

  1. Be aware that men go into a cave, shut down when they are stressed. The more alone, the more at risk they are for self-injury. This awareness will help you to heed the warning signs that a male friend may be in harm’s way.
  2. Lend a supportive but nonjudgmental ear. Listen, understand, and don’t lecture.
  3. Check-in, let him know you are there.
  4. Share your own story of loss and pain, if relevant. Let him know you’ve been there and appreciate the depth of the loss.
  5. Do what you can to give the person faith that he has enough strength to do what is needed to get through his difficult circumstance. Life exists beyond what is happening to him right now.

If you like my post today, please say so by selecting the Like icon that immediately follows this post. Thank you, Deborah.


2 Responses to “Men and Stress: Real Housewives’ Husband Russell Armstrong Commits Suicide”

  1. Hi there, somewhat off-topic but I have a issue always keeping my teen daughter off Facebook when they really should be studying!!! Any thoughts short of unplugging their computer would be awesome! I tested some web browser plug-ins but they kept using a totally different internet browser and in addition they are far more computer savvy then me unfortunately 🙁

    • avatar Dr. Deborah Khoshaba says:

      Hi, that’s okay if it’s off-topic. I’m glad you stopped by today, and I’m happy to reply to your comment. Hum, that’s a very interesting question. Well, I’m not a behavioral therapist, per se, but in this situation, behavioral techniques apply. I’d tie something your daughter really wants with staying off Facebook for the studying hours. Now, the difficulty, I know, is that some of the studying may involve use of the computer, right? You might start out by tying two hours of homework without the computer turned on. Of course, she will have to read where the computer isn’t available to her. You have to give her something (reasonable) that motivates her in return. We call this the Premack Principle in Psychology. Simple, but, if you get the right incentive that motivates her, it does work. When I was in graduate school, I used to apply this to myself, when I had little motivation to study. I hope this helps. Warm regards, Deborah.


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