Male Suicide In England And Wales Is At Its Worst In 20 Years, We Need To Talk About It
5,691. That’s the number of people who took their own lives in England and Wales last year. 4,303 of that number were men, making it the highest rate of male suicides in two decades.
Today, September 10, marks this year’s Suicide Prevention Day. One person to speak out about the matter is singer Jack Garratt, who recently took to social media to encourage men to seek help and talk to others if they’re struggling with their mental health.
While everyone can be vulnerable to distressing thoughts and feelings, suicide rates are much higher for men than women. This isn’t just in the UK, it’s an issue in other countries like the US, too. Last year wasn’t the first time male rates dominated suicide figures; in 2014, men in the UK made up 76% of suicides, according to Men’s Minds Matter.
Jack, who has experienced depression and has contemplated suicide himself, wrote:
Tell the men in your life you love them. Men have been conditioned into thinking that talking about or even acknowledging their mental health is ‘unmanly’, or a weight that they don’t want to burden their friends and family with. This is nonsense and obviously bullsh*t.
[…] One of the most hurtful parts to my depression is that I don’t believe it’s my place, as a man, to talk about it with others. So I don’t. I convince myself that my silence is a signal of my strength. But silence isn’t strength, it’s just the sound of empty time passing.
He finished the thread of tweets encouraging others to speak out if they’re struggling themselves, or if they know someone who is.
Jack has since spoken to UNILAD about his battles with poor mental health, and thinks it all stems back to when he was a kid and growing up.
The Surprise Yourself singer explained:
I think my understanding of [depression] is relatively new, but I also think my understanding of it is growing as society’s understanding and acceptance of it is growing – especially within men, and the understanding of mental health within men. I talked about it quite openly at a live show I was doing earlier on in the year, and I remember saying it on stage once and ended up saying it on stage every night after.
I think my depression has been with me in some form since I was about 12 when I really started puberty and got a brand new rush of hormones, emotions and chemicals rushing through my body. I started at that age to really question myself, kind of disapprovingly. That manifested itself into what I would call my functioning depression, which is the thing I think stays with me all of the time.
Following his candid tweets, Jack largely received a positive response from friends and followers. Any negative comments he simply deleted, saying those kind of comments ‘don’t have a seat at the table for these kinds of conversations.’
The overwhelming reaction to the post was positive. The thing that really surprised me more than anything was the amount of people who engaged with that post, the majority of them were women. I made a point of making it clear that it is not the duty of others to fix the mental health of those who suffer poor mental health, but it is the duty of our friends and family to remind us that we care and love each other.
My message was to implore people to tell the men in their life that they love them. I don’t think men get as many compliments as they want and deserve.
Someone else who has struggled with their mental health is John, a mental health campaigner. John saw their mental health deteriorate after being in an abusive relationship and has since tried to take their own life several times. After years of struggling with poor mental health, John now sees the brighter side of life.
Speaking to UNILAD about their experiences, John said the abusive relationship they were in made them turn to self-harm, as ‘it took away the pressure’ and was ‘a relase’. However, John added it was ‘starting to affect me so much’ they were ‘made to feel so worthless’. John began to develop suicidal thoughts, and went as far as planning their own suicide.
I explained to my ex-partner that I felt I couldn’t do anything right, that she constantly put me down, she constantly make my life a living hell, I can’t cope with this. I felt trapped and suffocated with nobody to turn too – she made me so scared of talking to anyone, not even my friends and family knew what was going on.
While John can still struggle with poor mental health, they have seen it improve since removing negative people in their life and found purpose in being a mental health advocate.
My life is brighter, because I moved away from negative and toxic people who just brought me down, when you feel worthless or your self worth is low, you are vulnerable to attract toxic people who will make your life dark and gloomy. Since moving away from negativity, my life has got more positive and I never had purpose in my life.
In November, John created ‘John and Charlies Journey’. John and Charlie – a ‘stuffed teddy duck’ who provides John with comfort from flashbacks and anxieties’ – travel the UK raising awareness for mental health, domestic abuse and prevention of suicide, and encourage others to talk instead of suffering in silence.
Having purpose, serving the people really helps me, it gives me focus and when I was in a dark hole my life felt like ‘what’s the point in being here’, and looking back I’m so glad I never died every time I tried to commit suicide.
Men between the ages of 45 and 49 pose the highest risk of suicide. However, 2019 saw an increase in suicide rates of those aged between 25 and 44, the age bracket both John and Jack are in. Samaritans CEO Ruth Sutherland has called the recent statistics given by the Office of Nation Statistics (ONS) ‘worrying’.
Men aged 45-49 remain at the highest risk of suicide in 2019 – a worrying trend that has persisted for decades. We are also seeing a continued increase in suicide rates among young people, especially females under 25, where the rate has increased since 2012 to its highest level in 2019.
2019 has also shown a disturbing increase in rates among people aged 25 to 44 – a trend which has continued since 2017 for men and 2016 for women. With the impact of the pandemic this year taking a huge toll on people’s mental wellbeing, we should be even more concerned.
With the pandemic in mind, ONS cannot give accurate statistics on this year’s suicide rates so far as the ongoing health crisis has seen a delay in coroners registering deaths. With the pandemic seeing many people housebound for weeks, even months on end, it’s almost inevitable it will have had an affect on people’s mental health.
In a statement to UNILAD, the ONS said:
The number of suicides registered in the second quarter of 2020 is the lowest number of any quarter since 2001 however, these numbers should be interpreted with caution. It is likely that the lower number of suicides registered in the second quarter of 2020 reflects the impact of the coronavirus pandemic on the coroner’s service in England and Wales, for example, delays to inquests caused by the service adapting to social distancing measures.
It is unlikely that the reduction in registered deaths reflects a genuine reduction in the number of suicides, and we will be unable to tell how many people died from suicide during the pandemic until next year.
In regards to middle-aged men being at the highest risk of suicide, the ONS added: ‘Men aged 45 to 49 years continues to have the highest age-specific suicide rate with 25.5 deaths per 100,000 men. This could be because this group is more likely to be affected by economic adversity, alcoholism and isolation. It could also be that this group is less inclined to seek help.’
If a conversation is a difficult one to have, it’s likely to be one that needs to happen – and discussing the state of your mental health is never an easy discussion to have. If you think you made need some help, mental health charity Mind have a ‘where to start’ guide on its website – because asking for help when you need it is a sign of strength, not weakness.
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.