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Major report explores reasons behind male suicide

The Samaritans report says that when men don’t reach a ‘gold standard’ they can feel a sense of shame, which in turn can lead to suicidal thoughts.

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Image: Niall Carson/PA Archive/Press Association Images

AROUND 3,ooo MIDDLE-AGED men die by suicide in the UK and Ireland combined each year, with around 300 of these occurring in Ireland, and now the Samaritans has released a major study that explores some of the reasons behind this.

The report is published today and examines why men from disadvantaged backgrounds in their 30s, 40s and 50s are at higher risk of suicide than the rest of society.

The helpline charity Samaritans said that men from low socio-economic backgrounds living in deprived areas are 10 times more likely to die by suicide than men from high socio-economic backgrounds living in the most affluent areas, and its new report looks at the reasons for suicide beyond mental health.

Samaritans is now calling for suicide to be addressed as a health and social inequality.

Social issue

The research, Men and Suicide: Why it’s a social issue, reveals:

  • Men compare themselves against a ‘gold standard’ which prizes power, control and invincibility. “When they believe they aren’t meeting this standard they feel a sense of shame, which can lead them to have suicidal thoughts”.
  • The report says men in mid-life are now part of the ‘buffer’ generation. This means they are not sure whether to be like their older, more traditional, strong, austere fathers or like their younger, more progressive sons.
  • The changing nature of the labour market over the last 60 years has affected working class men, and the decline of traditional male industries has meant not just the loss of jobs but also a source of masculine pride and identity.
  • Men in mid-life remain “overwhelming dependent” on a female partner for emotional support, the report said. However, men today are less likely to have one life-long partner and more likely to live alone.

Director of Samaritans in Ireland, Suzanne Costello, said:

It has been recently recognised that men in mid-life can no longer be ignored as a group at high risk of suicide. However, this report shows that it is men from low socio-economic backgrounds who desperately need help. Men are often criticised for being reluctant to talk about their problems and for not seeking help. With this in mind, we need to acknowledge that men are different to women and design services to meet their needs, so they can be more effective.

She added that the role of mental health problems in suicide is “well-established and must not be ignored”. But she said that “we also need to look at the economic and social inequalities that contribute to people wanting to take their own lives”.

Six recommendations

Samaritans has six recommendations for the Government, statutory services health, and relevant NGOs when it comes to addressing suicide:

  1. Take on the challenge of tackling the gender and socio-economic inequalities in suicide risk.
  2. Suicide prevention policy and practice must take account of men’s beliefs, concerns and context – in particular their views of what it is to ‘be a man’.
  3. Recognise that for men in mid-life, loneliness is a very significant cause of their high risk of suicide, and help men to strengthen their social relationships.
  4. There must be explicit links between alcohol reduction and suicide prevention strategies; both must address the relationships between alcohol consumption, masculinity, deprivation and suicide.
  5. Support GPs to recognise signs of distress in men, and make sure that those from disadvantaged backgrounds have access to a range of support, not just medication alone.
  6. Provide leadership and accountability at local level, so there is action to prevent suicide.

To contact Samaritans, visit www.samaritans.ie or call 1850 60 90 90.

Read: Pieta House to open suicide crisis centre in Galway>

Read: Samaritans to receive new freephone number from next year>

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