The Pandemic of Male Suicide: Societal Inequalities and Stressors Men Face

The biggest killer of men under the age of 45 is suicide. On any given day in the UK twelve men will commit suicide which is more than triple the number of suicides of women. The most common method of suicide in 2013 was “hanging, strangulation and suffocation”, with 56.1% of male victims ending their lives in this manner.

There have been many high profile cases where men have taken their own lives or have seen the end due to maladaptive coping strategies, such as Gary Speed, Robin Williams and Charles Kennedy. This, you would think, would cause people to consider the issue of male suicide yet rather chillingly the University of York scrapped plans to mark International Men’s Day less than 24 hours after a male student committed suicide, showing how clear it is more needs to be done. Two separate public petitions to Parliament have been created, the first dated 30 September 2014 which attracted only 358 signatures and the second on 07 February 2015, which itself earned a mere 226 signatures before being archived. Despite the size of this issue and its impact it appears to attract little public interest.

Male suicide, popular to public opinion or not, is a topic that needs to be discussed and tackled head on because looking at the statistics it is clear that this is quite honestly a pandemic:

The size of this issue is unquestionable, the impacts are severe and the methods employed shocking. Further analysis of available statistics paints an even more detailed picture, looking at information from the Suicide Statistics Report 2015, as produced by The Samaritans, various trends and themes are shown to exist:

 

Suicide Rate By Age in UK.png

Suicide rate by age group

 

The age group with the highest risk of suicide is 45 – 49 both for males (26.8 per 100,000) and for females (7.7 per 100,000), the spike seen in males aged 85 – 90 and 90+ can arguably be caused by loneliness in old age.

 

Suicide_Rates_1983_-_2013_Gender.png

Suicide rate over past four decades

 

The suicide rate in women had been decreasing since 1983 until 2007 where it has remained level since. The same cannot be said for males, whilst there was a decrease between 1998 and 2007 there has been an increase since 2007 to similar rates as what was seen in 2004. The decrease in males from 1998 was due to the changes pushed for improving coping mechanisms, more on that later. Throughout history the suicide rate of men has been much higher than women, female rates peaked in the 1960s (11.8 per 100,000) and male rates peaked in 1905 and 1934 (30.3 per 100,000). The issue of male suicide is not new – in fact, the present numbers are not as high as what they have been, but that does not make it any less urgent.

 

suicide stats 1861 - 2007 gender uk.png

Whilst deaths are low in respect to the last 150 years, that does not negate the urgency of the matter

 

Why are these numbers so high? To begin to understand this we can look at the NHS and the risk factors given for suicide:

  • Life history – for example, having a traumatic experience during childhood, a history of sexual or physical abuse, or a history of parental neglect
  • Mental health – for example, developing a serious mental health condition, such as schizophrenia
  • Lifestyle – for example, if you misuse drugs or misuse alcohol
  • Employment – such as poor job security, low levels of job satisfaction or being unemployed
  • Relationships – being socially isolated, being a victim of bullying or having few close relationships
  • Genetics and family history
  • Singular stressful life events may have capacity to induce suicidal thinking and behaviour

The vulnerabilities detailed give an idea of risk factors for suicide but don’t explain why men specifically have a higher risk of dying by suicide than women, nor does it explain why suicide is the biggest killer of men under 45. Yet with these vulnerabilities in mind we can assess the lives of men to try to answer the questions surrounding the issue. Why are so many men killing themselves? Why specifically men? What can we do to prevent this? By assessing the social inequalities and stressors men face we can hopefully paint a better picture explaining the motives behind why this problem exists. Some of the issues that will be examined may appear to have thin links to the risk factors cited above but will still be addressed so as to get a wider understanding of the lives men live.

 

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The old adage says “to be worth one’s salt” and many men pride and rate themselves on the work they are able to do. Yet the workplace is not an easy-going environment, the prevalence rate of workplace stress in males stands at 590 per 100,000 (for women it is significantly higher at 920 per 100,000) – that equates to around 1 in 20 men and 1 in 10 women. However, as will be discussed later, men are less likely to recognise symptoms and seek treatment so their numbers could potentially be higher. Considering this, what are these work-place stressors?

Firstly, the workplace environment is very dangerous for men as they account for nearly 97% of workplace deaths. This can be explained in part because men choose the higher risk jobs for the higher pay (one of many reasons behind this “pay gap” feminists complain about) and also because men are more willing to do the tougher, more physically demanding work in order to provide for themselves and their families. An example of how this mind-set and willingness to work riskier jobs impacts men is the gender differences in deaths due to the industrial disease pneumoconiosis; in the years between 1991 and 2000 there were two female deaths attributed to pneumoconiosis (non-asbestosis) whereas for men there were a whopping 646 deaths attributed to pneumoconiosis (non-asbestosis). This evidences the sex-based differences in choice of work, that men are more willing to do work that is hazardous to their health. This difference is also because coal mine working (especially face-trained coal mining) is extremely strenuous, it is hot and sweaty – exactly the kind of environment the average woman is eager to avoid.

They work hard and they work long, men in the UK work more hours than women: the UK average for males is 41.0 hours per week and the average for women is 31.2 hours per week; three-quarters of long workers are men. Furthermore, one in five full time men work over 48 hours a week (compared to one in ten full time women), three times as many men to women work 60 hours or more and nearly 90% of those working more than 78 hours a week are men. Men are the ones putting in the extra hours at work, as they are oft the provider they need to do the hours in order to support themselves and their families. In addition, it has been found that working long hours increases the chances of stroke and coronary heart disease, two conditions which men lead in.

Men are more willing to work the longer hours (over-working themselves) in situations that are hazardous to their health and safety. They put themselves forward to be worth their salt, irrespective of the damages that may be sustained. This may be because they value their contributions higher than they value their health and well-being. No doubt, as workers men put in the extra effort – an honest day’s pay for an honest day’s work.

Just as the physical environment is dangerous and stressful to men, so too is the social environment and surrounding stigma of certain jobs. There are societal perceptions of what men and women do, which influences how society perceives what jobs they should be doing. This is true for both sexes for a variety of jobs, engineering tends to attract men and nursing tends to attract women; this is due to the types of work involved. Yet the responses to this phenomenon differ for the two sexes, we see a lot of propaganda and campaign work to get more women into STEM but little for getting men into “non-masculine” jobs.

Such an example of a “non-masculine” job is teaching, an area where men are under-represented as employees. In Australia, for example, the number of male teachers has fallen to just 16% as men are leaving “fearing they will be labelled inappropriate for working with children”. Kevin Bates, President of the Queensland Teachers Association said “there is a bit of a perception that it is a feminised profession” – feminised could hypothetically be switched for emasculated when speaking of men. We share a similar statistic here in the UK, according to The Department for Education just 19% of primary school teacher trainees in 2011-2012 were men. Men here in the UK do not want to become teachers.

Whilst the feminisation of the workplace has been happening for a while and has helped dampen the occupational segregation in society, it has had adverse effects. As militant feminists have further progressed into the workforce, so have stories of their “antics” increased. Recently, if claims are to be believed, they have been trying to frame Linus Torvalds for sexual assault. The man who gave us Linux and GitHub has been targeted just as has many other prominent male software developers. It doesn’t end there, as Allum Bokhari reported “discontent at the behaviour of feminists in tech has already been spreading in the open source community thanks to the feminist-led introduction of controversial codes of conduct for developers on some open source projects.” The actions of employees are being policed and the persons themselves threatened unless they abide by their demands of quasi-inclusion. Worth of merit is replaced with worth of diversity, pushing out those who are there because of their ability.

The struggle continues: blog posts have existed since 2011 saying that men are avoiding women because “if you say anything to them they get the wrong idea”; they worry that saying “that’s a nice dress” will be misinterpreted as he wants to do x, y, z to her. “Hank” from the #Donglegate fiasco of 2013 fell victim to feminist bigotry after being publicly shamed for telling a joke. He lost his job and his face was plastered all over the internet, fuelled by an angry blog post and shared all over twitter. Despite being shaken up by the ordeal he was soon rehired, his accuser? Not so lucky.

Men are being systematically targeted and phased out of the workforce by these allegations and “inclusion” programmes, they are shying away from interacting with women and keeping to themselves for fear of repercussions. In the name of “inclusion” the majority (aka patriarchy) has to be subverted to create a more diverse environment. The resulting turmoil and corporate gender infighting is what causes the blog posts and societal changes mentioned earlier to arise.

“Hank” now avoids women in the workforce due to his experience, men are avoiding women due to the hassle they cause – they now fear being slapped with a sexual harassment charge. This fear at the workplace is causing “powerful men to hide behind open doors” as they do not want to be left alone with women – unfounded claims are now treated with a guilty until proven innocent mentality. They don’t even need to physically meet them, in September this year Charlotte Proudman publicly shamed Alexander Carter-Silk, accusing him of sexism for the crime of complimenting her LinkedIn picture. He was forced to publicly apologise for his abhorrent behaviour whereas Ms Proudman plastered her story all through the mainstream media, grabbing as much attention as possible. It appears that nothing men do is considered right, that their actions are considered an infringement on others. Basic and routine conversation has become a hazardous minefield of potential claims of sexism and abuse leaving men unsure of where is considered safe and what might be a step too far.

It is clear to see that the workplace is a very stressful and hostile environment for a man to be, facing threats of false sexual harassment/assault claims, longer working hours, harder work and even death. Alas it does not always pay off, quite literally, as those of lower social class living in more deprived areas are up to ten times more likely to commit suicide than those who are of higher social class living in more affluent areas. Those out of work are two to three times more likely to end their lives than those who are in work. To quote the prior linked report by The Samaritans: “You are far more likely to die by suicide if you are of low socio-economic position and a man.” For men, facing financial hardship and being seen as a burden challenges (possibly mistakenly) their position of provider and due to the historical culture of masculinity, causes the men to feel less like men.

In times of debt or hardship these men feel, unless they have a close-knit kinship with those around them, that their friends/family would do better if they were simply not there. To quote another Samaritans report: “Kinship contact remains greater for working- than middle-class families. In working-class communities, close knit networks can be key to survival at times of financial hardship”. Unless these men feel supported when they themselves cannot support their family, they live in fear of becoming a burden, like a ballast that needs to be cut loose.

During these times of economic crisis, when men lose financial stability, it has been noted that the suicide rate in males increases. As was mentioned in the introduction male suicide rate peaked in 1934 (30.3 per 100,000) as we were suffering from the fallout of the Great Depression. A similar trend has been noted recently: a study in the British Medical Journal found that between 2008 and 2010, the areas affected most from the recession also suffered an increase in male suicides. They estimated that each 10% increase in the number of unemployed men was significantly associated with a 1.4% increase in male suicides. Their findings further suggest that around 40% of the recent increase in male suicides during the 2008 – 2010 recession can be attributed to unemployment. As men associate value and who they are with self-reliance -and the need to provide for those around them- when such capabilities are removed so too is their sense of value. Men, inherently, see themselves as providers – they like to care and provide. Losing this causes them let go of who they are.

To give further understanding about the link between socio-economic class and suicide we need to give consideration to the numbers of those living in poverty and low income for the UK. Currently, around one in five live in low-income households (19% of men and 21% of women; the difference is caused by the higher numbers of single female pensioners and single working age with children); at any point during the past three years around 4½ million men and 5 million women were in low income households. Not only are these men living in lower socio-economic homes they are also not living in homes. Around 74% of the homeless population is male, 84% of the hidden homeless is male and 86% of rough sleepers are men. Sadly these men are finding themselves in dire financial circumstances where they feel they are of no use, they feel like burdens to those around them and feel pushed too far out.

But what could be causing these men to be in lower socio-economic situations? Surely these men are being put through an education system designed to better equip them for life? Alas this is not the case. As has been prior discussed at The Screen our education system is a little less than accommodating to the male sex. To give a short review: a meta-analysis of three studies found that girls from age 4 and boys from age 7 believed, and thought adults believed, that boys are academically inferior to girls. They also found that when children were informed that boys do worse at school it hindered boys performance on reading, writing and maths tests but not for girls – but when children were told boys and girls perform similarly it improved the performance of the boys but not the girls. Not only do boys and girls from a young age have a negative view of what boys are capable of, viewing them as inferior, but boys are much more susceptible to falling behind if they are informed as such. Thusly it would be sane to argue that our education system should accommodate for such a fact so as to allow all students to progress equally and fairly.

Unfortunately though this is not the case: even from a young age our boys are being disadvantaged at school (original file “disappeared” from their website, can be found hereand the problem isn’t even just a local one, boys are actively being graded down simply for being boys. Barriers to learning are not being addressed, the boys are left falling behind in school and feeling they could not catch up. They lack basic numeracy and literacy skills leaving primary school and these issues are not rectified post-primary school. There are poor teacher-pupil relationships and a lack of connection between subjects and boys everyday lives. In short, boys feel school is not for them and they are passing through the education system spending ten years feeling like they are an outcast to it. This is worsened by the lack of gender specific approaches designed to help them through.

 

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If the workplace is hindering male quality of life, what about the home? The home, for a man (stereotypically speaking), is supposed to be a place where he can come back after work, have a beer, put his feet up and spend some relaxing time with his wife. However it seems to be that the home is now a place that the male may not feel safe, nor desire, as many men are opting out of the typical, adult home-life. Men Going Their Own Way (MGTOW) is a movement amongst men who have decided to quit relationships, quit careers, quit education – essentially walking away from society and doing their own thing. Some retreat into their man-caves and play video games, others play sports and drink beer with the lads, and there are those who still work and socialise but ultimately refuse settling down. So many men are walking away that it has been dubbed by some as “The Sexodus”.

But why? Why are so many men walking away from relationships, from marriage, from the “nuclear home”? Dr Helen Smith Ph.D., author of “Men on Strikecites six reasons why men are walking away from marriage and fatherhood – arguing that men are making rational decisions and calculating the pros and cons:

  • They’ll lose respect
  • They’ll lose out on sex
  • They can lose out on their children and their money
  • They can lose their space
  • They can lose their freedom
  • The single life is better than ever

In the eyes of these men the above mentioned costs of marriage and relationships are not worth it, so many of them leave, refusing to participate in a game where the odds are stacked up against them. The men who officially self-identify as MGTOW are still a minority as many men do enter relationships, move in with their partner, get married and have children (and many are also simply not aware of the MGTOW movement, despite practicing elements of it). MGTOW is simply a defensive response to the dangers they anticipate they’ll be facing should they follow that path.

When men do make the bold move and enter marriage they have to pay their way in, from day one the male has to purchase her commitment (in early, less sexually-liberated days this was chastity) by providing for his woman a suitable engagement ring. This is just a continuation of a trend, throughout dating men are expected to pay more expenses. He even has to go down on one knee, like a servant, in order to propose. An archaic and dying tradition was that the male would have to ask his soon-to-be-wife’s parents for their “blessing” (permission) to marry their daughter – an act rarely, if ever seen, performed in the reverse. Even the wedding day is traditionally considered to be all about the woman, however in recent years that has been changing. At the wedding the father of the bride has to give her to the groom, as if the man has no say if he is allowed to love the woman he is marrying. Once they commit they are a “married man” and with that comes certain expectations. They have to pay in as the provider, feed the family, be the breadwinner, etc. They are expected to expend their resources towards the family and see that they are provided for – which takes a toll financially and socially.

When men are married, their dedication to their wife and to supporting her financially through his work leaves him with little to do in his spare time. Married men are more likely than single men to lack close friends to turn to which isn’t helpful when you consider that marriage can make men depressed. And the sex isn’t great too, as couples age the frequency of sex decreases, which for some men is cause for depression. Justin Lehmiller, a Harvard University social psychologist said “For some men, sex may be their primary way of communicating and expressing intimacy. The removal of sex takes away their primary emotional outlet.” This inability to express, to feel intimacy increases sexual dissatisfaction which is in turn associated with an increased risk of divorce.

Modern men are settling themselves down in a system they’re paying for which is stacked against them without any form of support they can access. Yet getting out the system is not easy either as the process of divorce is difficult and hardwired to be against men. When men are faced with divorce they are stuck in a situation where they have to foot the bill: they lose half their estate, they have to pay alimony and/or child support when they lose their children, often they have to pay the court fees – financially it is a hardship. They don’t even initiate it in most cases. Even when they employ the same tactics that have been used against them for years, they get slammed for it. The courts allow men to have their assets taken, even if they were earned long after divorce, they even allow women the right to take more of their former spouses money if they didn’t declare enough. Understandably, divorce and relationship break-ups have been linked with higher rates of depression in men.

 

They don’t have no friends, they don’t need no phone.

Just a bunch of severed dads from a nuclear home.

 

The home isn’t just depressing and financially risky, it’s also physically dangerous. Contrary to far-too-popular belief but men suffer domestic violence and at near similar rates to women. A meta-analysis of 343 papers with an aggregate sample size of more than 440,850 participants found that women are just as likely as (and in some cases more so than) men to commit Inter-Personal Violence (IPV). Research from University of Central Lancashire found that women commit more IPV than men and were more likely to exhibit controlling behaviour – citing evidence that contradicts feminist theory of domestic violence. At least one in three victims of domestic violence are male.

There are horrific stories of abuse surfacing, men being stabbed in the back by their wives when they were being hugged by them – she was hugging him to apologise for beating him up. The refuge centre this particular victim was staying at (Montgomery Family Crisis Centre) reports that it attracts criticism because “it doesn’t run police checks on residents to see if they were, actually, the perpetrators of the violence”. If this behaviour were to be conducted in regards to females it would be called “victim-blaming”.

Should you ask the regular public on their views and perceptions of domestic violence they will (oft unknowingly) refer to the Duluth Model: Men as aggressors, women as victims. This policy is as outdated as it is hopelessly inaccurate, as it has been for as long as it has existed. But what can men do? In short, not a lot. Despite the falseness and fallacies of the Duluth Model, it is still the main practice for domestic violence investigations, as evidenced by the US and UK versions of the Violence Against Women Acts (VAWA). Under these laws innocent men who are themselves the victim are being arrested as officers wrongfully inherently believe they are the attacker. Look at these Government released posters designed to raise awareness of abuse as part of the campaigns “Teenage Relationship Abuse Campaign” and “Violence Against Women and Girls” (1, 2, 3, 4). Even teenagers are being indoctrinated with the idea that men are the aggressors and women are the victims.

If men seek help, shelter and/or refuge in an attempt to escape the violence and conflict in their home, is there much protection available to them? No, sadly not. In Ireland there are no refuges available to men, none, and the case for mainland Britain is not much better: 4000 spaces dedicated to women but only 33 for men (and 78 mixed spaces). Not only are men being wrongfully branded as the attacker they also have little help for when they fall victim, even though more married men suffer domestic violence than married women.

For men, marriage and the typical “home life” presents a dire situation: one fraught with financial worries, threats of violence, the potential to lose their house, estate and children. They have little help should they fall down or are victimised, they have burdening expectations of how to behave and what to do and are faulted for the tiniest slight. They aren’t allowed a chance at defence and are considered guilty long before accusations are even made. For men the sound of wedding bells is too eerily similar to that of a gavel, they have to get out … in any way they see possible.

 

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As has been slightly touched on, men aren’t overly favoured when regarding legal matters. When it comes to crime and the law (in part thanks to society’s preconceived notions of aggressors and victims) men are at a massive disadvantage with bringing crimes forward and how they are treated as criminals themselves. For example in the week ending Friday 20 November 2015 there were 85,977 people in prison, 82,042 male and just 3,935 female – women account for a mere 4.577% of the prison population. But is this evidence that men are inherently more criminal?

No. When a case hits the courtroom and sentence is delivered, 3.4 times as many men are sent to prison as women, men receive 64% longer sentences and on average serve 10% more of their sentence. If male offenders were treated like women there would be 68,000 less men in prison. To add further “equality” back in 2010 judges were ordered to show more leniency when deciding sentences for female offenders. Apparently the 1 female to 21 male prison population ratio is not “equal” enough.

To back up this “equality” Baroness Hale DBE said in her 2005 Longford Trust Lecture:

It is now well recognised that a misplaced conception of equality has resulted in some very unequal treatment for the women and girls who appear before the criminal justice system. Simply put, a male‐ordered world has applied to them its perceptions of the appropriate treatment for male offenders.”

Arguing that we should treat female criminals differently to male criminals is sexism, no matter how you brush it up, and the obvious victims of this mentality are men. “You commit the crime, you do the crime” as the saying goes. Yet, the same Baroness Hale DBE said in R (European Roma Rights Centre) v Immigration Officer, Prague Airport 2004:

The individual should not be assumed to hold the characteristics which the supplier associates with the group, whether or not most members of the group do indeed have such characteristics, a process sometimes referred to as stereotyping. Even if, for example, most women are less strong than most men, it must not be assumed that the individual woman who has applied for the job does not have the strength to do it… If strength is a qualification, all applicants should be required to demonstrate that they qualify.”

If they are found guilty it is to be understood they possess the strength to not only have committed the crime for which they have been tried but they also possess the strength to do the time. We should, as she correctly argued, not discriminate based upon stereotypes. Evidence of a person’s criminality should be found not in their sex, gender or any other arbitrary trait but instead should be found in the nature of their crime. This however is not what is argued nor demonstrated in UK courts.

To combat inequality in the courtrooms the Courts and Tribunals Judiciary released in November of 2013 the Equal Treatment Bench Book (emendation released September 2015); the gender section looks at various factors so as to understand and tackle the perceived gender inequalities in the courtroom.  It argues that women face “stereotypes and assumptions about women’s lives [which] can lead to unlawful discrimination” and that “women’s experiences as victims, witnesses and offenders are in many respects different to those of men”. It is true that women face these stereotypes and assumptions, just as men do. It is also true that women’s experiences are different to that of men’s. Yet they are wrong in assuming that women have it worse off, that “as judges [they] can go some way to ensuring that women have confidence in the justice process and that their interests are properly and appropriately protected” – the statistics prior shown tell a stark different story, yet the judges seem ill aware of this (they do say that men suffer discrimination too, but also say it is rarer). What the report mainly entails is lists of statistics and reports to how potential backgrounds of plaintiffs and defendants can interact with and affect court hearings and rulings.

However the report is heavily gynocentric, focusing on the needs and issues of women in a manner to argue they require special alleviating treatment in the courtroom. The Sexual harassment and violence section is appended with against women. The thoroughly debunked pay gap is cited. The Duluth Model is heavily implied (though they were smart enough to not directly cite it). Women are portrayed as carers and men as financial providers. In the “Women as offenders” section it still attempts to portray women as victims; the “recommendations” offered say that “sentencers must be made aware of the differential impact sentencing decisions have on women and men”. These recommendations only serve to defend women and in some cases seems to attempt to annul women of their criminal status. As well as attempting to annul it seeks to protect female offenders, arguing they need to “ensure women can feel safe in participating in the justice process and are protected against unjustified intrusive questioning”. This of course does not apply to men. Reading this document shows the ingrained gyno-centrism of the courts and British Justice System, a system that routinely protects women (even if they are offenders) and offers no guidance nor acceptance of men’s issues or requirements, arguing that women are wrongly being discriminated against in an unfair system and that they need special treatment – irrespective of what the facts say.

Because if they followed the facts they would see a higher proportion of men reported being a victim of violence than women, 2.3% and 1.4% respectively – this is also true for both wounding and common assault without injury. Men also comprise 70% of murder victims and only 3.9% of men who suffer sexual assault/rape report it to the police – suggesting a potential 679,051 sexual assaults and rapes of males took place between 2010 and 2014. Yet male victims cannot prosecute female rapists as UK law does not recognise females as perpetrators of rape. There is little to suggest that this will be changing any time soon.

 

victims of violent crime by sex.png

Men comprise majority of victims of violent crime yet society fails to recognise this

 

Men are routinely ignored as victims and are even wrongly painted as accusers, the argument that men must always be the aggressor, as in the case of Jay Cheshire. He was just seventeen when he was falsely accused – the accuser dropped the allegations after two weeks. Yet the impact had taken its toll on him and he was found hanging in a woodland just a few weeks later. Despite having already suffered from low mood and been seeing a psychiatrist since he was 13, the allegation was considered a serious factor in his death. Senior Coroner Grahame Short, who recorded the verdict of suicide said that “he found it difficult to cope with the police investigation”. His mother Karen, 54, speaking of the alleged victim, said “she accused him of rape and said he was a sexual offender. He was absolutely distraught. Two weeks later she said she withdrew the allegations … He was a wonderful young man with a great love of history.” A young boy with a life and a future had it all swept from underneath him because of one false accusation.

There are others like him: James (not his real name) had his life torn apart by a false accusation, finding solace in creating accused.me.uk, a forum for victims of false accusations. Ben Sullivan was accused whilst serving as Oxford University Union President. Philip McDonald and his teenage brother James were both accused by Linsey Attridge after she saw their picture on Facebook – they hadn’t even met. Phillip was harassed in the street and shunned at the school gates, surrounded by whispers from the other parents. He withdrew his daughter from school and moved elsewhere.

Warren Blackwell, 40, spent three years in jail as a convicted sex attacker. His accuser was a false claim fantasist, creating 7 other false allegations (changing her name each time to hide her identity) yet she won’t be prosecuted because she is “too ill”. He was awarded £252k in compensation but was charged £12,500 for cost of food and accommodation while behind bars. Yes, he had to pay them back for his time in prison.

A woman who cannot be named due to legal restrictions drove a man to suicide and another to considering it when she accused them of similar sex attacks. Sophie Tucker didn’t want her fiancé to know she had performed a sex act on his boss just days before their wedding so she accused said boss of rape. Nick (not his real name) was falsely accused of rape and it followed him for three years, massively impacting his education.

Men are demonised and treated to trial by social media, a modern day witch hunt. They are selected, demonised and have the burden of proof forced unto them, all for being male. It is because of incidents like these why we have seen the rise of MGTOW and why (as Allison Pearson found to her shock) men are hiding security cameras such as this in their bedrooms. This is a rational response for men to turn to such measures because they are demonised at every turn and soon will be held to guilty until proven innocent. If this new guidance makes it through men (not women, obviously, because women can’t rape) who are accused will have to prove how a woman said “Yes” or how consent was given. Men are being held accountable for crimes they did not commit, denied the right to prosecute those who inflicted harm upon them, are left behind routinely and expected to put up and deal with. Ultimately if you are a man and you got a legal problem: tough shit. The justice system does not treat you as well as it should.

 

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It doesn’t get easier because as we know when things go wrong the last thing we want is to get sick. Health complications for men are not the same as health complications for women for the obvious reason of differences in biology and anatomy so thusly should be treated differently. This, as we already know, is true; there are different healthcare plans and treatments for men and women. But how differently are men affected and are they given equal and fair support?

Peter Lloyd asked this most aptly in his book Stand By Your Manhood when describing the current state of men’s health: “According to the Office for National Statistics, men don’t just lead in nine of the top ten killer diseases, including cancer, heart disease, stroke, pneumonia, diabetes and cirrhosis of the liver – you know, the really fun ones – we also die five years earlier than women in a life expectancy gap that’s increased 400 per cent since 1920.” But why? The science does say that men are at an increased risk of premature death from a broad range of health conditions, but why so?

A first potential explanation is funding, take for example sex specific cancers (ignoring the small number of male cases of breast cancer). Men and women in the UK suffer prostate and breast cancer at near similar rates, there’s also similar number of deaths so thusly the survival rates are near the same. Despite this there is nearly two and a half times as much funding for breast cancer as there is prostate. As can be seen on the graph (just as is also displayed on their website) there has been a near doubling of UK cancer research funding in less than ten years – we can see where it has gone.

 

Spending in Millions on 4 most common cancers in UK.png

Funding in millions for cancer research in UK (source)

 

This is true for more than cancer, back in 1999 for every £1 spent on men’s healthcare £8 was spent on women’s. Whilst there has been change since then this report shows (in London) male healthcare still receives less funding than female healthcare, there are fewer services available to men and they are (if) available for fewer hours – the 1:8 ratio was still in effect in Hammersmith and Fulham Borough in 2011/12. The report details further gender discrepancies: “only a handful of London health trusts and councils commission services focused on men’s physical and mental wellbeing”; Primary Care Trusts expended £1.8 – 2.0m more on women’s health services than men’s over the past five years and three times as much is spent on services aimed at or predominantly used by women than for those for men – there were areas that did the opposite, such as Southwark and Westminster City Council. As a result there are areas where the women have a life expectancy 12 years greater than men’s; in Stonebridge, Brent, the male life expectancy is 73.5 years, five below the national average.

To quote Peter Lloyd again: “we live in a medical matriarchy. In other words, male life is cheap. Bargain basement, last-day-of-the-sale cheap.” Male specific medical issues are not considered a high enough financial priority and are put on the backburner where they have been in some cases, forgotten.

This is in spite of evidence showing that men have weaker immune systems, as has been known for quite some time. Other research has found that males with higher levels of testosterone had a lower antibody response rate to the influenza vaccine. Androgen Anabolic Steroids reduces immune cell number and function, a lack of testosterone in persons with Klinefelter’s Syndrome (XXY Chromosomes) enhances cellular and humoral immunity – androgen replacement treatment can suppress this and in mice it was found testosterone can suppress autoimmune diseases. Testosterone, the defining and primary hormone active in men, negatively impacts men’s health and welfare by suppressing their immune systems.

Men are finding themselves in an unhealthy situation where their needs are not being met, services are unavailable or receive insufficient funding and are left to put up and deal with. Their own bodies are by very nature lesser equipped to fight illness, they are suffering from all the worst ailments and are dying early. Men are suffering and they are suffering alone.

 

§

 

Being a man isn’t easy – as has been shown; not only is male life difficult but the societal view of men and masculinity is itself at odds with men. Society unfairly holds a rather contemptuous view of men: not accepting their needs when they are victimised, painting them as abusers, passively denying them help, holding them accountable for acts they have not committed, etc. It is truly telling of how we perceive men that the way men define themselves is considered a surprise. In the 27,000 participant study the men interviewed reported that being seen as “honourable, self-reliant and respected was more important to their idea of masculinity than being seen as attractive, sexually active or successful with women”. The surprise is due to the false public perceptions of men and masculinity, such as Toxic Masculinity, the idea that patriarchal socially-constructed attitudes of men define masculinity as violent, aggressive, cold, etc. Members of the mainstream media are guilty too, having pushed attempts to demonise masculinity and manhood, claiming we need to do away with it. What proponents of the “anti-manhood” or “anti-masculinity” movements fail to note (let alone praise) is the works and developments afforded to society through the sweat of men’s hard work and dedication. Men built our roads, they farm the food we eat, they took us to the moon and they developed medicine. As Camille Paglia said “If civilization had been left in female hands we would still be living in grass huts” – alas male efforts, male hard work, the very identity of being a male is demonised and scrutinised for not meeting some arbitrary impossible gold-standard of perfection. This gold standard however has unfortunately made its way into the minds of men as, to quote The Samaritans, “when men believe they are not meeting this standard, they feel a sense of shame and defeat … Masculinity is associate with control, but when men are depressed or in crisis, they can feel out of control. This can propel men towards suicidal behaviour as a way of regaining control.” This template is thrusted upon men almost as if they are entitled to zero autonomy and self-definition.

Following his trip to Liverpool and visiting Clock View Hospital in Walton, Jeremy Corbyn spoke of Liam Fletcher’s death by sayingWomen generally are more prepared to speak out, but not always. We have to challenge that. There’s a macho culture at the moment that stops many men from speaking out.” It is great the see the leader of The Labour Party, the party founded for the working man, stepping out in support of men’s issues but the notion that “macho culture” is what is preventing men from reaching out is incorrect. As Glen Poole rightly said in his responding article in The Telegraph “But it’s not a “macho culture” that prevents men from “speaking out”; it’s a culture that isn’t yet “man enough” to listen and respond to men’s needs.” To treat men or the way men behave as the issue, to blame a culture of masculinity as what is hindering men from speaking up is false and detrimental to the cause of helping men seek the help they need.

 

We need to raise boys like we raise girls.” – Gloria Steinem

 

Should men actually break from this and expose their inner emotions they are laughed at, considered a non-man or having lost masculinity. Half of men in London feel like crying once a month and are ridiculed for it. Men are stoic and bottle their emotions not just due to their nature but because there is no-one who wants to listen. The concept of masculinity has become such a battle-scarred political war ground that opening up is not an option for them. They have learnt what happens when they do and have actively chosen to steer clear, it’s just not worth it.

 

top comments correct at 2123 04-11-15 guardian social media campaign male suicide.png

The onus isn’t on men talking but society listening (source)

 

The wider mainstream media also contributes to this canonize-demonize dichotomy of men – they are either bumbling, useless idiots or handsome, macho alphas. As well as this dichotomy there is also the hypocrisy to match: you are allowed to mock men in TV advertisements but it is outlawed by the Advertising Standards Authority to do the same to women. Women are afforded protected status from mockery and humour but men are not. Families on television are presented with idiotic, symbiotic father figures that cause mess and raise hell and it is up to the mothers to be level headed and kerb the irrational behaviours of her male counterpart – often at her enraged and weary behest: Family Guy, The Simpsons, The Amazing World of Gumball, to name but a few. Young children’s books also present the idea that fathers are difficult, irrational and lazy; they are displayed as unnecessary and as a burden.

In said contrasting media men are portrayed as strong, assertive and successful, such as with the likes of James Bond. But even he is not without his critics: Daniel Craig, the most recent actor to fill Bond’s shoes, recently lashed out at the character branding him a misogynist. Some even call him a “boring, tasteless rapist”. Strong male characters also easier to dispose of – it is their strength that makes them disposable. In films and media it is mainly men who are inflicting violence and men who receive it, we are socialised to accept this because we are led to believe that men are inherently bigger and stronger so therefore they can take the pain. Men are also considered fodder and near any act committed against him is permissible (age restrictions of audience still influence this however).

The idea is reinforced that either men are useless, incompetent and are an obstacle blocking the way or they are some overtly macho alpha male. This dichotomy – juxtaposition – provides a sort of cognitive dissonance to what a man is and how he is perceived; either they must be strong and capable or they are in the way, a burdening fool to those around them. If society is to take cues of masculinity and manhood from the media it is no wonder that men’s definition of masculinity is considered a surprise.

 

§

 

It is well known that those who attempt suicide most often have had a history of mental health, notably depressive illnesses, with up to two thirds being troubled at the time of attempt. This however would argue that more women would be dying by suicide, as one in four women will require treatment for depression at some point in their lives compared to only one in ten of men. However, men are less likely to recognise they are unhappy and are thusly less likely to seek help. This could mean that their depression, as it is left unchecked, can deteriorate and have much heavier effects on them. It has also been seen that 80% of women who committed suicide sought help from doctors and received treatment before their deaths compared to only 50% of men (only 20% of men under 25 sought help). Speculatively speaking, it is very possible that the number of men suffering depression is higher and due to their inability to recognise the symptoms correctly and their reluctance to seek help, the depression is therefore having a more prolonged and more impactful effect on their lives, ultimately ending them.

These men are not just suffering from depression but they are also suffering from stress, many of the prior topics act as an influencer and a catalyst to stress. Following from the prior information reviewed about depression, men exhibit similar behaviours when they are stressed. When men are stressed, rather than evaluating the emotions felt and seeking social support they instead used more problem-focused coping strategies. Whilst this is useful in dealing with the cause of the stressor it does not deal with the effects of the stressor, meaning that any harmful, emotional effects of stress are not dealt with or worked out. Alas with stress – as was with depression – not only are men less likely to recognise symptoms and less likely to seek help but they are less likely to be able to cope. The US study argues that “they don’t get a lot of it (stress) and they are not used to it, so they are more prone to its harmful effects”. The problem-focused coping strategies and lack of emotion-focused coping strategies are having a negative effect on men’s mental health to a point where it is becoming unbearable. A greater support network and understanding of men and stress is required to ensure men have the tools to cope.

Unfortunately the few coping strategies that many men do employ to deal with the emotional kickbacks of depression and stress are, in a word, maladaptive. As per the old adage “drown your sorrows”, many men are quite genuinely drinking themselves into an early grave. Alcohol, as a temporary cure, is great for stress. It is a depressant, it slows down the brain and the central nervous system’s processes, thus reversing the effects of adrenaline of cortisone – the two hormones released when stressed. There is no contention that we as a species (men definitely included) have discovered this. In fact, a fifth of men drink every day or most days of the week and almost two thirds of people aged 30-45 turned to alcohol to unwind. The problem doesn’t end there: men are twice as likely to abuse or become dependent on alcohol and they also exceed the recommended daily allowances on a regular basis. One in twenty are “at risk” drinkers; to qualify you have to drink more than 50 units a week. The unfriendly statistics don’t end there: men are more likely to have a drug or alcohol problem: 67% of UK adults consume “hazardous” amounts of alcohol of which 80% are men and 69% of people dependent on illegal drugs are male. Men are also slightly more likely to smoke, 22% of men smoke compared to 19% of women. Since 2007 there has been a decrease in the number of female smokers whereas there has been little change in the number of male smokers.

Alas the drink problem is more than that, because as we have seen, men are more susceptible to alcoholism. But why? There is the stress, depression and maladaptive coping strategies but there is also biology. In non-alcoholic humans oral consumption of alcohol induces a dopamine release, as is to be expected, but the difference in magnitude between the two sexes is to what should be noted. In a 2010 study, male and female participants were orally administered alcohol and it was found that the men had a greater release of dopamine than women. This increase was found in the ventral striatum, the area most commonly associated with pleasure, reinforcement and addiction formation. To quote Dr Nina Urban, corresponding author for the study “In men, increased dopamine release also had a stronger association with subjective positive effects of alcohol intoxication.” Most intriguing though: “This may contribute to the initial reinforcing properties of alcohol and the risk for habit formation.” Alas the inherent biology of men leaves us more susceptible to falling into alcoholism and Dr Anissa Abi-Dargham, senior author, states that “another important observation from this study is the decline in alcohol-induced dopamine release with repeated heavy drinking episodes. This may be one of the hallmarks of developing tolerance or transitioning into habit.” Not only are men open to the clutches of the bottle but alas male biology dictates that they are also at risk of easy addiction to alcohol, or at least open to building a tolerance to it.

The stress suffered and coping mechanisms employed are risk factors for suicide but interestingly so are also factors for Coronary Heart Disease (CHD), which is the number one killer of men over fifty and is the leading cause of death in the UK and worldwide. According to the NHS CHD is when the “heart’s blood supply is blocked or interrupted by a build-up of fatty substances in the coronary arteries”.  Many of the causes listed for CHD show striking resemblance to coping mechanisms / effects of stress:

Heredity – Personality traits that are hereditary have been linked to stress, thus these personality traits could be a secondary cause.

High Cholesterol – Links between stress and high cholesterol are known, but causes are not.

Tobacco abuse – Tobacco is used to relieve stress but can clog up the arteries.

Obesity – Dietary choices can have a massive impact on stress, either relieving or aggravating it. Stress can lead to negative dietary choices – addictive sugary and high-fat comfort foods – which in turn clog up the arteries.

High blood pressure – Prolonged stress may increase blood pressure, hormones released when stressed may damage arteries; spikes in stress are known to temporarily raise blood pressure.

Diabetes – See obesity.

Lack of regular exercise – Stress inhibits physical activity, when people are stressed they exercise less. The health benefits of exercise are more than documented.

High fat diet – See obesity.

Emotional stress – Emotional stress and the maladaptive coping mechanisms that accompany increase the risk of developing CHD.

Type A personality – Type A Personality Behaviour (TAPB) persons develop CHD twice as much as Type B; studies on women have not found such a major difference between Type A and Type B and subsequent health. This may argue that coping mechanisms are just as influential as personality type.

The coping mechanisms and effects of stress are heavily linked to CHD, thus showing a potential link between the prevalence of male suicide and CHD with the environment and lifestyles of men. The similarities between risk factors of CHD and male suicide coping mechanisms, coupled with the prevalence of both CHD and male suicide, argues that the lives of men are stressful and are sending them to an early grave be it through the psychological or the physiological effects of stress. Further research is required but ultimately the stress and hardship of men’s lives puts immense pressure on both their minds and their bodies until one inevitably gives way.

It is sad to say but men turn to these maladaptive coping strategies because they do not know how else to cope. It is not seen as favourable for men to open up; they decide to “man up” or to “bottle up” their emotions rather than seek help despite the damaging effects these choices have. They are less likely to recognise symptoms and less likely to seek emotional help from those around them and are also less likely to seek help from their GP. They choose to mask and bury their feelings which over time have can have devastating effects.

 

the same thing driving young men to kill is what's driving men to suicide 2.jpg

Men are no different to anything else, put them under enough pressure and they break

 

Men live arduous and stressful lives. As soon as they are born they are thrust into an education system that does not cater for their needs, they interact in social environments where expression of emotion or a male identity is considered taboo. They work in jobs that stress them and often kill them for money that is dangerously close to running out, leaving them in fear of financial ruin. They are considered useless in the family home and worthless outside it, they are demonised for any violence that may occur there unless the violence is against them then it is ignored. They are punished for going out and having fun while fearing and avoiding the lockdown of commitment which, should they choose celibacy or the single life, they are mocked and insulted for. They are patronised for being the protector and painted as an attacker. They’re slandered for providing and feel like a burden when they cannot. Should they fall sick they are expected to be strong and deal with it but if others fall sick they are expected to care and provide. At any time any one of these issues (or something else entirely) can spike and push them tumbling over the edge. Their lives are stressful and difficult, the only way they know how to deal with it is by masking it and numbing themselves. Their coping strategies are just as harmful as the pain they feel and near no-one cares enough to give them a hand out of their situation. Men are held to impossible standards and are given little room to breathe, expected to put up and go on. Men are routinely told they are disposable and they believe it. There’s no two ways around it, men are killing themselves because their lives are too much. They cannot cope.

Massive social change is needed, the stigma surrounding male identity and how men express themselves needs to change, men need their spaces and they need to feel like a man. Be it the removal of their identity or the idea they have failed as a man, losing this status and not being in a firm position with oneself is crippling to many men. Men need to be allowed to open up in environments where they will feel safe that they will be accepted and helped.

We need support services that understand the male identity, masculinity and how to specifically cater to male needs. The Movember Foundation’s report Evidence For A Gender-Based Approach To Mental Health explained that “presenting help-seeking as a strength and viewing men as a positive asset within formal services can secure more engaged and sustained involvement”. They also found moderate evidence supporting that “action-orientated approaches, particularly those that involve groups of men engaged in traditionally male activities, may have specific appeal for men”. They also found that using male language and approaches, and especially avoiding ‘feminised’ language, is more likely to facilitate initial engagement for men with formal services, e.g. “coaching” rather than “therapy”. Men are no different to any other demographic, they have their own needs and requirements which, when recognised, can be catered for.

The Samaritans also cite recommendations on how to reduce suicide – in this report these recommendations were targeted for disadvantaged men in mid-life. Some of the recommendations are to “inform suicide prevention measures with an understanding of men’s beliefs, concerns and contexts – in particular their views of what it is to ‘be a man’”, to “support GPs to identify and respond to distress in men, recognising that GPs are the most likely formal source of help to be consulted by this age-group” and to “develop innovative approaches to working with men that build on the ways men do ‘get through’ in everyday life. The way men cope and how they perceive themselves requires special attention from those who know how men work and how they cope. Dedicated funding for these treatments is required and the imbalances in the healthcare system need addressing to ensure such changes can be brought about.

The dip in suicides post-1998, as was first mentioned in the introduction, was caused by working to change the coping mechanisms employed by men. Professor Louis Appleby, chair of the National Suicide Prevention Advisory Group in England said: “Men are more at risk of suicide because they are more likely to drink heavily, use self-harm methods that are more often fatal and are reluctant to seek help. Fifteen years ago the rates among men under 35 were brought down sharply by tackling these problems and we need to use this success to address the problems of the new highest risk group, middle aged men”. Whilst this did not combat the causes of the stress it did relieve many symptoms of it and allow men to cope in safer and healthier ways.

We need to relieve the many social inequalities and stressors men face, they are the backbone of our society. We need to open up services to them and make it easier for them to seek help. We need to remove the stigma of men opening up and to redefine the term “being a man”, what society sees as a “man” and what men see as a “man” are two separate ideas. We need to lessen the burdens men carry because these burdens are literally killing them.

 

 

In the UK, The Samaritans can be contacted on 116 123, Calm’s helpline is 0800 58 58 58 FREE. In the U.S., the National Suicide Prevention Hotline is 1-800-273-8255 FREE. In Australia, the crisis support service Lifeline is on 13 11 14.

 

 

[Update (03/03/16): Edits have been made to fix spelling & grammar errors, as well as to fix dead/incorrect links.]

[Update (19/03/16): Edits have been made to fix dead/incorrect links. Again.]

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