Suicide and Men

Suicide is the biggest killer of men under 50 yrs, with those in their 40’s most at risk. A hundred men die a week. It is more prevalent than at any time in the last 14 years and men are four times more likely to end their own lives than women. So why is that? Simon Jack, BBC economics correspondent who lost his own father to suicide, aged 44 yrs, decided to investigate and find out why?

The likely reasons such as loss of job, earnings, partner and family were not relevant to Jack’s father. Whilst the Samaritans’ experience indicates complexity of factors – financial and emotional problems, personality traits, the challenges of mid-life and mental health issues, these also affect women too, and although half of telephone calls the Samaritans receive come from women, four times as many men end up dead.

Prof Rory O’Connor runs one of the world’s leading research centres into suicide at Glasgow University and conducts experiments into the psychology of suicidal behaviour. Mental illness is often a part of the problem but isn’t sufficient as a complete explanation, he says. “We think that most people who die by suicide have a mental illness but less than 5% of people with a mental illness take their own lives.” What is evident is how unwilling men are to talk about their problems and so struggle in silence. Also, when suicide hits a family, the family often struggle to talk about it as did Jack’s brothers, finding it too upsetting. By investigating this issue further Jack spoke with his mother who confirmed his father had financial problems amongst other worries that were not spoken about prior to this death. He found the same in relation to other men taking their own lives, trying to be strong and not talking about their worries. He then met men who had considered suicide and discovered ‘not opening up’ was a direct link to choosing suicide. Expectations to be the stereotypical strong male character dominated and stopped men from talking and he found more evidence in the sport of Rugby League, where thankfully changes are taking place. Ian Knott, professional rugby player considered suicide after a sports accident which left him without his career, feeling depressed and unable to fulfill his roles in life. He now works with local charities encouraging men to talk about their difficulties, their struggles and indeed suicide.

“You know what it’s like, even with your mates; suicide is a conversation stopper not a conversation starter.”

For that to still be true about the biggest killer of men under the age of 50 is unacceptable and needs to change.

Original article http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/magazine-32231774