Suicide is the biggest killer of men under 45.
It’s a terrifying fact, and the suicide rates are only rising among young people today.
A report by the Samaritans organization based in the UK, found that of the 6,122 suicides committed in 2014, 4,630 of them were men.
With the continuous developments in psychiatric care and other improvements in the mental health sectors, one would expect these rates to have dropped compared to the ones reported decades ago. Yet, in 1981, 4,129 men in the UK took their own lives, which shows that things have only been getting worse.
Moving across the globe, Australian men are showing a similar rise in self-harm rates. During the month of October, 191 Australian men committed suicide. In memory of the men who lost their lives, 191 shoes were placed on Bondi Beach in Australia.
That same day also marked the start of Movember, the global event during the month of November, which attempts to raise awareness on men’s mental health, and prostate and testicular cancer.
The suicide rates in Australia are on par with the UK, with statistics showing that an average of six men commit suicide each day, making suicide the first cause of death for men aged between 15 and 44 years of age.
In a recent report, the Australian Bureau of Statistics found that self-harm is the 13th highest cause of death in the country, coming in higher than breast cancer, pancreatic cancer, and liver cancer.
In the U.S, suicide rates are also rising, and in Japan, men are taking their lives each day, with 71 percent of suicides in Japan being committed by males aged between 20 and 44 years of age.
What are the causes?
We’ve established that death by self-harm is a very current and growing issue, but the real question is why? Why are young people taking their own lives, when it can be said that individual social empowerment is on the rise in today’s world?
One could argue that the biggest cause is problems with men’s mental health, yet, The Mental Health Foundation in the UK reports that women are three times more likely to have mental health problems, and no research has shown that depression or other mental issues hit men harder than women.
Men do however tend to bottle things up more, literally. Alcoholism rates for men in the UK are three times higher than those of women.
The impact of the stereotypical “male” image
For the most part, the stereotypical “male” image is said to be one of the main reasons men tend to close up their emotions, and find it impossible to deal with them when they do, eventually, surface. From a very young age, boys are taught that men should be big and strong, and never cry.
Boys don’t cry, man up are only some of the phrases and cliches that urge men to be men, which always seem to push males to be emotionless and tough.
The Black Dog Institute, an organization which specializes in the diagnosis, prevention, and treatment of mood disorders, found some of the most consistent causes of male suicide.
A long period of a depressed mood can get the thought started and with no help, the feelings and emotions associated with this mood only worsen. As mentioned above, the false conceptions of masculinity are a leading cause of suicide, as males have built the idea of a strong man in their minds, the man they need to be.
Finally, a personal failure or problem such as a failed relationship or losing your job, was found to be another main reason why young men are committing suicide.
Judy Proudfoot, the leader of the study by the Black Dog Institute said, “It appears that some of the stereotypes are true. Many Australian men are not good at dealing with poor mental health and unfortunately this tips them into a downward spiral of hopelessness, poor decision-making and poor resilience to day-to-day life stresses.”
Dr Michael Player, lead researcher of the study and clinical psychologist, stated. “Men actually do want help. Unfortunately, we don’t have a really good dialogue or opportunity for men to talk about their mental health. This goes back to the way we have been brought up.We haven’t had really good role models that have shown adequate ways to deal with mental health issues.”
Who’s addressing the issue?
While suicide rates rise, many organizations are springing into action, attempting to educate the world on the crisis of male mental health and suicide rates.
Movember is growing each year and websites like Man Therapy and other foundations are doing all they can to tackle the issue of male mental health and the preconceptions of what is considered to be masculine.
How can you help?
We leave you all with some recommendations by Dr Player on how to help friends and family who show signs of suicidal behaviour:
- Male bonding activities like camping and fishing, as an opportunity to talk to someone trusted and respected
- Being listened to with an open mind without judgment
- Spontaneous physical activities
- Giving back through voluntary work for a sense of contribution and connectedness
Men suggested family and friends could interrupt a spiralling mood by:
- Organising activities to ‘get them out of their head’
- Give men positive feedback about their worth and create a sanctuary where men could talk about distressing feelings
- Increase their social connectedness
- Normalise distress
Specific strategies recommended for friends and family of men at risk:
- Setting small achievable goals and encouraging them to do more things for themselves helped build positive momentum
- Some men described friend or family just turning up for a visit as a helpful interruption to negative thinking
- Professional help
- Building skills in emotion regulation and building a vocabulary for men to talk about feelings
Our primary aim for this article is to further awareness on this terribly impactful crisis. Awareness is always the necessary precursor to taking action.