GUEST COLUMN: Let’s break the taboo surrounding male suicide, by Jason Hanson, Mansfield counsellor

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In 2014 it was believed 76 per cent of all suicides were by men (4623). This equated to 12 deaths per day which is staggering. It is now widely believed to be the biggest killer of men under the age of 45 in the UK.

But why is it that whilst women are three times more likely to attempt suicide, men are more likely to succeed?

One theory is that mental illness within men carries greater stigma and hence people are reluctant to disclose. There is still a misconception that the man provides for his family and is characterised by strength, both emotional and physical. It could be argued men feel a pressure by society, but more importantly by themselves to always remain strong and healthy.

If anything should upset the equilibrium of work, home, finances, family etc it can induce feelings of inadequacy. Those feelings will then have a further detrimental effect on the individual socially, physically and emotionally and it’s easy to see how the process can soon escalate and spiral out of control.

By the time men get to the stage of contemplating suicide it’s possible their low mood and situation have escalated so dramatically, they see no other options. To think some people’s moods deteriorate so significantly they see this as the only option is extremely sad and begs the question why are the campaigns to support men with mental health problems not hitting the mark?

It’s been suggested when it comes to looking at suicide in society we are ‘gender blind’. We don’t see many campaigns aimed specifically at men yet suicide is significantly higher in men than it is in women.

There is no room for negotiation when it comes to suicide, there is no middle ground, the message is clear. We must work on prevention and it’s imperative we reach men and help them to understand it’s not weak to talk about it; it’s not weak to share emotional and physical burden; it’s not weak to realise you need some support; it’s not weak to see a therapist or even talk to a friend about how you are feeling.

We all have bad days, we all go through difficult periods of our lives and question our ability to cope. It’s ok to have a bad day, it’s natural for things to go wrong and it’s perfectly normal to feel overwhelmed. 

There is support available, so please don’t feel embarrassed or ashamed to open up about how you are feeling. Some useful websites are: www.thecalmzone.net, www.muted.org.uk  and www.samaritans.org.