Male suicide is the focus of this year’s International Men’s Day
MALE SUICIDE IS THE FOCUS OF THIS YEAR’S INTERNATIONAL MEN’S DAY CREDIT: ALAMY
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Glen Poole, uk co-ordinator for international men’s day
19 NOVEMBER 2015 • 8:36AM
Today is International Men’s Day. Since the UK event was relaunched in its current format in 2010, the day’s co-ordinators have placed a particular focus on the issue of male suicide.
In 2013, for example, International Men’s Day launched a report called Putting The Man In Your Manifesto, which invited all political parties to make a commitment to tackling male suicide. None did.
This year, however, with the support of organisations like CALM, The Samaritans, Rethink Mental Illness, the British Psychological Society and the British Association of Social Workers, MPs will hold their first ever “Male Suicide and International Men’s Day” debate. It’s a crucial step forward in the drive to stop male suicide from destroying people’s lives.
To mark the occasion, here’s ten reasons why everyone should be talking about male suicide.
MPs were warned recently that male suicide is now a public health emergency
MPs were warned recently that male suicide is now a public health emergency CREDIT: ALAMY
1. Too many men are dying
Male suicide is a public health emergency. 13 men a day kill themselves in the UK, that’s nearly 5,000 men a year, accounting for 78pc of all suicides in the country.
2. Because some people are against talking about male suicide
Strange though it seems, there are some people who oppose attempts to put the spotlight on men’s issues.
Jess Phillips MP, for example, recently sniggered as she voted against proposals for a male suicide debate on International Men’s Day.
Then there was the bizarre case of the University of York abandoning plans to highlight issues like male suicide on International Men’s Day after 200 academics, students and alumni signed a letter saying the phrase “gender equality is for everyone” is misogynistic.
Clearly there’s a lot of resistance to men’s issues, so if we care about male suicide we have to work extra hard to push the issue into the public realm.
3. When we talk, men talk
On the occasions male suicide is discussed, you can guarantee that someone will blame the problem on men not talking. What is rarely discussed – and needs to be talked about more – is research that suggests men are more likely to seek help with a problem when it is socially acceptable to do so. This means that the more people talk about helping suicidal men to get help, the more socially acceptable it becomes and the more likely men are to get help.
So talk about suicide, you might just save someone’s life!
Men often require a problem to be socially acceptable before they seek help
Men often require a problem to be socially acceptable before they seek help CREDIT: ALAMY
4. Because men like Rob and Dave want us to
As a result of speaking out publicly about male suicide, I’m often contacted with those affected by the issue.
Last week a man I’ll call Robert told me he’d sat on the railway tracks on many occasions in recent years, waiting for the Carlisle to Newcastle train to put him out of his misery. The same day, I was contacted by a man called Dave (not his real name) who said: “Your hard work on these issues warms my heart. My best mate from the age of four committed suicide four years ago as he couldn’t go on and no-one really got it or him. I still think of him everyday”.
Be in no doubt: when more people speak out about this issue, it can make a difference for those at risk, those who’ve survived and those who are left behind, just to know that people care.
5. Because suicide isn’t a crime
There is tendency to still talk about “committing” suicide, because it was once a crime to take your own life. This isn’t the case anymore. Feeling suicidal isn’t illegal, it’s nothing to be ashamed of and it’s a dark place from where many men return.
Initiatives like James Withey’s Recovery Letters shows that it is possible for men to find a way back from the edge of suicide.
6. Because we’re too tolerant of violence against men and boys
Men are the main victims of both men’s violence and women’s violence and yet while we have strategies to end violence against women and girls, there are no such strategies in place to tackle violence against men and boys.
How is this linked to suicide? When I was researching for my book, Equality For Men, I discovered that male victims of many different forms of violence and bullying are at greater risk of suicide.
Illustration by Jacqui Clark
Illustration by Jacqui Clark
7. Because some men are at a higher risk of suicide
Research also tells us that men who have been in care, are homeless, are imprisoned and were excluded from school are all at greater risk of suicide. So it’s important we speak out for those who are at most risk while never forgetting that men at every level of society are more likely to kill themselves than women from the same background.
8. Because men expect to protect and provide
While family roles are more fluid than ever, most men still expect (or are expected) to take on the role of protector and provider. Climbing up the greasy poll can help boost your resilience. Men from the poorest backgrounds are ten times more likely to kill themselves than men living in the most affluent areas.
But no-one is invincible, researchers found that more than 1,000 people in the UK killed themselves because of the economic impact of the last recession and 84pc of them were men. This could well be because unemployed men are two to three times more likely to kill themselves.
9. Because fathers matter
Involved fathers can make a huge difference to their child’s wellbeing and the absence of a father from a boy’s life can increase the risk of suicide. Researchers in Sweden found that boys whose parents had separated were more than twice as likely to attempt suicide.
It’s not good news for dads either, with researchers finding that separated men are between six and ten times more likely than separated women to die from suicide. So we need to talk more about how we reduce the impact of family separation on men and boys mental health and wellbeing.
10. Because Tulisa and Mistajam are talking about male suicide
So how do we start taking more about male suicide? Well, the suicide prevention charity, CALM UK, is launching a new social media campaign on International Men’s Day, to get more people talking about male suicide. So if you want to make a big difference with as little effort as possible, then why not join Tulisa, Jonny Benjamin and Mistajam and sign up to CALM’s #BiggerIssues campaign at http://www.biggerissues.co.uk.
However you mark it, I wish you an happy and healthy International Men’s Day. And remember, the more people talk about male suicide today and every day, the more lives we can save.