The “Myth” of the Male Suicide Epidemic

As I was browsing through the internet I came across an interesting article that perked my intrigue. Tom Slater, deputy editor of Sp!ked Online wrote a piece titled The Myth of the Male Suicide Epidemic. He has spoken before about men’s issues and MRA’s but this piece tickled me and I felt a response was necessary.

Suicide is a terrible thing no matter who it affects, there is no question about it. Many could argue that because it can affect anyone it is not particularly a men’s rights activists issue, but it is simply because of the stark gender differences in suicide. There are differences between the numbers of male and female suicides just as there are differences in the methods employed by men and women. Also, it would be incorrect to argue that the lives, stressors and pressures of men and women are the same. The way men and women live, suffer and cope is very different.

So thusly there are several issues at hand surrounding the male suicide epidemic, which have been covered here before at The Screen, but the top three issues are:

  1. The biggest killer of men under 45 is suicide: 12 men a day choose to end their lives.
  2. The male suicide rate is three to four times that of the female suicide rate.
  3. 42% of men aged 18 – 45 have contemplated suicide.

Suicide is not a single-victim issue, when someone takes their life they leave behind friends, family, loved ones. Statistically speaking, because two in five men have contemplated suicide, you probably know someone who has thought about it.

These three issues combined is why the male suicide problem is referred to as an epidemic by the Men’s Rights Movement – not that I’m pedantic but they should really call it a pandemic. The scale of the issue and the fact that it can and does affect anyone and everyone is why it is considered such a problem. You may disagree with the name of the problem, but that does not detract from its seriousness. After all, punchier headlines attract greater attention.

Whilst it is true that overall suicide rate is decreasing, that is because over the past 30 years the female suicide rate has nearly halved, whereas the male suicide rate has stayed roughly the same. This has had an influence on the overall suicide rate but bears no relevance to the fact that men are killing themselves in similar numbers as they were in the early 80s.

 

Suicide_Rates_1983_-_2013_Gender.png

Suicide rates for men are similar now to the early 80s

 

Over the past 15 years interesting changes have been noted, firstly the dip in suicides post-1998. This was because many of the poor coping mechanisms that men employ when stressed and/or suicidal were dealt with, 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.” Alas this has had only a short term effect as the rates have started to climb yet again.

 

Suicide Rate By Age in UK.png

Men in their 40s are at highest risk of suicide

 

Another interesting trend is the age most susceptible to suicide, whilst it is correct that there has been a steep decrease in the suicides of males in their twenties and thirties since the 90s we can see that men in their forties now are the highest risk. It is not because that age range itself is dealing better but because the same people at risk then are the same people at risk now. This can be argued because they are the “sandwich generation”, stuck between the influence of their emotionally stoic fathers and living with their emotionally liberal sons, unsure which coping mechanisms to employ and how to respond to stressors in this ever-changing, modernising world.

The wonders of this modernising world means that greater medicinal advancements are constantly being made, which of course means less people are dying from sickness and illness. So it is fair to argue that because of these advancements is why suicide has crept up to be the 12th leading cause of death for all ages of men in the UK. However, to argue that suicide is less of a problem because of this is false, 78 men a week are still dying from suicide even if less are dying from other ailments. The fact that it is creeping up shows two things. Firstly, that suicide is a continuous problem. Second, we aren’t doing very much to prevent it. This needs to change.

The obvious question on everybody’s lips is: why do men kill themselves at a greater rate than women? This is a multi-faceted, heavily complex question with just as difficult an answer, but much of it can be boiled down to stress and The Empathy Gap. The Empathy Gap is a natural phenomenon that has existed for millennia in some form or another, some know it as gynocentrism others know it as The Disposable Male. In Lehman’s terms, the lives and well-being of men is not given as much consideration (or empathy) as that of women. It is as pervasive as it is subtle, influencing behaviour on a large social scale and a micro inter-personal scale. It is why violence against women is given a special platform but violence against men is ignored, even laughed at.

When men are find themselves in stressful situations, put under pressure and are suffering, be it because of (un-)employment, finances, emotional trouble, mental health, or any other reason, they are routinely ignored. A wide variety of factors can cause suicidal thoughts and tendencies, but if the person is treated and cared for they can recover. There is no one reason why so many men are pushed to suicide because each case is different but there is one reason no-one cares. It’s because they’re men. They are human just like us, they have problems just like us, they are no different to us, but our empathy for them is near non-existent.

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

This comment thread perfectly highlights the issue of why men don’t speak out

Referring back to the earlier statistic of 42% of men aged 18 – 45 have contemplated suicide, I would like to introduce you to a game I have developed. It is rather crassly called “Suicide Bingo”. The rules are incredibly simple, all you need is to be somewhere fairly populated where many people (preferably men, sorry ladies!) have congregated. Now you have to consider that two in five men have contemplated suicide.

So point them out.

Either you are reeling back in horror or contemplating the situation in your head. Both reactions are what I intend to illicit. Firstly, to try to point out someone who has contemplated suicide is both insensitive and disrespectful, the horror you feel to this game is the same horror you should feel to the prior mentioned statistic.

Also, should you actually attempt to point these people out I daresay you would struggle. Suicidal thoughts are something that you can’t outright pick up on. These men who have contemplated suicide are out and about, walking around, living their day-to-day lives and we are none the wiser to how they feel. Only half of men who have committed suicide have sought help, for men aged under 25 only one fifth had done so. Think about it. He could be your father, your brother, your son, brother, best friend, colleague or some random guy in the street. Anyone.

Ultimately, there is nothing wrong with men. There is no one overlying oppressing attacker that is derailing their lives, there is no big bad defect somewhere in their brain pushing them over the edge. They live human lives fraught with difficulty and stress, just like you and me. But what does tie them all together is that when they are suffering and when they die, they are just numbers on a database and society doesn’t care they are gone. Statistically speaking, since the upload of Tom’s article and the upload of this one, 36 men took their own lives. But we’ll still sleep soundly tonight, won’t we?

2 comments

  1. I have depression. The suicidal thoughts have creeped in. I went to my doctor. Couldn’t get her to take an interest. I’m not going back.

    Like

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