Expert Stresses Importance Of Breaking ‘Man Up’ Stereotype After Male Suicide Hit 20-Year High
High rates of male suicide isn’t just an issue in the UK, but across the globe.
Last year, it was found that male suicide rates across England and Wales had hit a 20-year high, with 4,303 of 5,691 recorded suicides being men – a statistic that’s becoming all too common.
Meanwhile, elsewhere in the world, men have been found to be twice as likely to take their own lives compared to their female counterparts. In some countries, this is even higher – for example, in Eastern Europe, the risk is up to seven times higher for men than it is women.
According to Our World in Data, as of 2017, the global suicide rate for women was 6.3 deaths per 100,000, compared to 13.9 per 100,000 for men.
While all suicides are a tragedy, why are men more vulnerable to taking their own lives?
Discussing some of the reasons why there are higher rates of suicide in men, Melanie Griffin, suicide and self‑harm prevention coordinator at The Kaleidoscope Plus Group, said, ‘We are told in society, and it’s been very generalised, that men are told that they’ve got to be tough, that they shouldn’t ask for any help, and obviously that’s what we really need to work on.’
‘Women are generally quite open and are willing to share their problems; they tend to have a sit down with friends and they’re quite happy to talk through how they’re feeling – but men don’t really tend to do that,’ she continued.
‘They’ll bottle things up, so it’s really important to try to get our men to open up and talk. They’re told that they’ve got to be strong, to ‘man up’ and have a stiff upper lip, so it’s really important that we try to break that [stereotype].’
According to Melanie, men who have experienced some kind of loss are more likely to take their life; whether that’s the loss of a relationship, a job, or a loved one.
She explained to UNILAD, ‘One reason is relationship break-ups – it’s sad. Women, being very generalised, are usually the caregivers, and when a relationship breaks down it’s usually the man that’s expected to move out.’
It’s not always the case, but a lot of times the children are used as a bit of a weapon – child alienation. Imagine coming home every day to your child and you’re greeted every day with ‘Daddy!’, and all of a sudden that’s taken away from you and your child is withdrawn from you.
It’s a loss, and we associate suicide with loss. It’s the loss of your child, and the loss of your home, your finances, your connections, your family and friends. It’s about those types of losses that come with a relationship break-up.
Melanie also noted that fathers are often expected to continue to pay towards the mortgage of the home they’ve moved out from, particularly if their young child still lives there, on top of having to pay for their own, new accommodation. This can then lead to financial struggles, with the man turning to payday loans or gambling to keep themselves afloat.
‘Those types of things can lead to thoughts of suicide as a form of escapism,’ she added.
While loss is often seen as a negative thing, what some might see as a loss, others may see as a positive thing, such as a young man going to university after his A-levels.
Melanie said, ‘Most people presume loss is a negative, such as a bereavement, relationship break-up, or loss of a job, but there’s also ones that people see from the outside world as a positive. For example, a mum meeting a new partner is a positive, but underneath there is a young male who absolutely despises their mum’s new partner – so a young male may then take his own life because there’s no escape; there’s a loss of the fact he thought that his family might get back together.’
Reverting back to the university example, she explained:
To most people, going to university is a great thing – they did well in their A-levels and they’re now going on to do further education, but actually they’ve been at home with mum and dad who have been cooking, cleaning, washing for them, and had their friends there. They’ve only had to concentrate on their A-levels, and then they up sticks and move them to another part of the UK where they’ve got to learn to cook, clean, wash, get a job, make new friends, and on top of that, get a degree. There’s also that loss of leaving home.
A loss is an impact on someone where they feel frustration around what’s going on in their life.
To help people experiencing these types of losses, Melanie homed in on the importance of communication, describing it as making ‘a world of difference’ to someone’s mental wellbeing.
Talking about some of the work that’s done at The Kaleidoscope Plus Group, she said, ‘We do a lot of work around transitions from school to university, from university to jobs – we work on that a lot with younger people to make them aware that, to the outside world these changes look great, but you might have some struggles.’
This World Suicide Prevention Week, The Kaleidoscope Plus Group are also going into typically male-dominated work places to start a conversation around mental health and suicide with employees.
‘We’re going to local manual labour jobs such as construction work, typical ‘manly’ jobs, to make sure that we go in and have a conversation about suicide and mental health so that we have those conversations,’ Melanie said. ‘It’s about communication around transitions, and keeping those lines of communication open, to prevent those feelings of frustration and loss from arising.’
While everyone has different mental health experiences, Melanie said a few typical ‘red flags’ people might present are: a pattern in changed behaviour; withdrawing from social events; drinking more; or partaking in particularly reckless behaviour.
As to how to approach these red flags with the individual, Melanie told UNILAD, ‘It’s about having that conversation about you noticing that they’re doing what they wouldn’t usually do, and asking them what’s going on while encouraging them to have a conversation.’
Giving advice to those who are thinking of taking their own lives, Melanie said:
Things will get better. There is support out there for you. Give life a chance. Get some help and support, and whatever the factors are that are making you think of suicide, such as if you’ve gotten yourself into debt, let’s get you in touch with debt support. This kind of support eases the thoughts.
‘There are lots of different support systems out there to help you. Some will work for somebody, they might not work for you – keep trying. There’s a service that fits for you that you feel comfortable using, whether that’s a phone line or text line or email, there’s help out there for you,’ she added.
If you’re experiencing distressing thoughts and feelings, the Campaign Against Living Miserably (CALM) is there to support you. They’re open from 5pm–midnight, 365 days a year. Their national number is 0800 58 58 58 and they also have a webchat service if you’re not comfortable talking on the phone
If you’ve been affected by any of these issues and want to speak to someone in confidence, please don’t suffer alone. Call Samaritans for free on their anonymous 24-hour phone line on 116 123
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