Three quarters of suicides are male - why aren’t men seeking help for their mental health
In the UK, someone takes their own life every two hours and according to research, men are three times more likely to take their own lives than women - with men alone accounting for three quarters of suicides.
Male suicide is the biggest killer of men under the age of 45.
In 2018, there were 6,507 suicides registered in the UK, with 4,903 of them being among men.
Those are some pretty terrifying statistics to get your head round ahead of World Suicide Prevention Day (September 10).
Overall, we have been making strides in the understanding and treatment of mental health issues, including suicide, of late.
Despite the World Health Organisation (WHO) revealing that one person takes their own life every 40 seconds, the overall number of people dying by suicide has been declining.
Last year a major new study revealed that antidepressants were an effective treatment for depression in adults.
And last September statistics revealed a downward trend in the number of suicides over the past 36 years.
Culture of silence
But though these steps are encouraging, when it comes to the issue of male mental health and suicide the conversation is most definitely stalling.
According to experts this partly stems from men being unwilling or feeling unable to open up if they’re suffering.
“Men are less likely to admit when they feel vulnerable compared to women, whether to themselves, family, friends, or a doctor,” explains Nick Gibbens, spokesperson for men's mental health awareness and suicide prevention charity, Lions Barber Collective.
“They also can be more reticent than women to see a GP.”
But keeping their emotions bottled up often means men are unable to deal with their issues and as a result they are much more likely to take their own life.
Chloe Ward, TMS Technician at Smart TMS, a specialist provider of Repetitive Transcranial Magnetic Stimulation therapy (rTMS), a technological breakthrough in the treatment of depression, believes there are a number of reasons male suicide statistics are so concerning right now.
“One reason may be the personality trait of impulsivity – the tendency to act without properly thinking about the consequences,” she explains.
“Men are on the whole more likely to be impulsive than women, maybe leaving them more vulnerable to spur-of-the moment suicidal behaviour. ”
Although Ward points out that not all suicidal attempts are impulsive, there is a clear correlation found between alcohol use increasing impulsivity and a clear correlation between alcohol use and suicide.
“There is no single reason why men take their own lives as suicide is complex but what is known is that the male suicide rates are increasing more by the year,” she says.
And according to Gibbens research also shows that male suicide methods are often more violent, making them more likely to be completed before anyone can intervene.
What is stopping men seeking help for their mental health?
According to Nick Gibbens it's not that men don't have the same issues as women – but they're less likely to actually know they have whatever stresses or mental health conditions that are putting them at greater risk of suicide.
“Men tend to believe that opening up about their feelings is a sign of weakness and it's not considered to be ‘manly’,” he explains.
“This often starts in childhood as we tend to tell boys that 'boys don't cry'. We condition boys from a young age to not express emotion, because to express emotion is 'weak'.
“Of course the exact opposite is true and it shows great coverage and strength to admit that you have a problem and to stand up and deal with it.”
What should men do if they are struggling with their mental health?
According to Earim Chaudry, Medical Director at Men's wellness platform Manual the first step is opening up to someone about what you are going through.
“While it can be really hard at first, a big part of being proactive about your mental health is seeking help and reaching out,” he says.
“Whether that's going to your GP or looking for a counsellor, there's no one-size-fits-all approach to managing your mental health, but communicating how you're feeling is imperative.”
Chaudry also believes a healthy lifestyle can do wonders for your mind.
“Going outside for a jog, getting a good night's sleep and a healthy diet can play a large role in feeling good again,” he says.
“Putting in a little time to connect with others is also a great part of looking after your mental health,” he adds.
“Setting aside some time to chat to a friend every week, volunteering and activities with your family are all ways you can really feel like you're establishing connections with other people.”
Ward would like to see men being given time to talk in an environment they feel comfortable in, where they are not judged and listened too.
“Whether this is in the form of counselling or even in the form of meet-ups with individuals who may be going through a similar thought process,” she says.
“Men need to know it is okay to talk about their mental health, it doesn’t change how people see and perceive them but if they are struggling they should not be struggling alone.”
Time to Change have kicked off a five year campaign, In Your Corner, to encourage men to be in their mate’s corner and be more open and supportive of those fighting a mental health problem.
“We want to put mental health on the radar and show that you don’t need to be an expert to be there for someone struggling with their mental health,” says Sue Baker, OBE, Director of Time to Change, the mental health anti-stigma campaign run by Mind and Rethink Mental Illness.
“Essentially, it’s about being a good friend – just doing everyday, ordinary things can make a big difference.”
Baker suggests a couple of simple measures people can adopt to help someone who might be battling a mental health problem.
Text, call, reach out to your mate
Ask how they are, listen without judging
Be yourself, do everyday things.
The Lions Barber Collective is also trying to address the culture of silence by turning barbershops into safe spaces for men to start conversations about mental health.
The group is having an enormous impact with men who traditional mental health services can struggle to reach.
“A survey we commissioned with The Bluebeards Revenge male grooming brand back in 2017 actually showed that men were much more willing to talk to their barber about mental health issues than their doctor,” Nick Gibbens explains.
“Men are able to build up a great relationship with their barber and feel safe to speak as they know they will not be judged.”
If you’re concerned about suicidal thoughts you can contact the Samaritans anytime – 24 hours a day, 365 days a year – and the number 116 123 is free to call.
To find a therapist in your area visit http://www.itsgoodtotalk.org.uk/