Suicide and Silence

Read this interesting article from the Guardian over weekend, looking at the link between suicide and men aged between 20 – 49:

Nine months ago, Jake Mills texted his girlfriend one final time to tell her he loved her – and then he tried to kill himself. “I genuinely felt that I was a burden to a lot of people’s lives,” the 25-year-old Liverpool comedian says. “A lot of people say suicide is a selfish act but, in that frame of mind, if you’re about to kill yourself, you just don’t see anything better.”

Although Jake had been visiting a counsellor, he was just telling her what he thought she wanted to hear. “She discharged me and told me that I was healthy and better. But actually I wasn’t better, I was just better at lying.”

Jake was rescued by his girlfriend and has been confronting his depression ever since. But for all too many men, there is no rescue. Last week, millions were shocked by the suicide of beloved actor Robin Williams. The aftermath has provoked a long-neglected debate about mental health and suicide.

A cursory look at the statistics in Britain suggests it is dearly needed. Suicide is the biggest killer of men between 20 and 49, eclipsing road accidents, cancer and coronary heart disease. It is also predominantly a male disorder. Of the 5,981 suicides in 2012, an astonishing 4,590 (76%) were men. And yet while Britain has high-profile campaigns on, say, testicular cancer or driving safely, the biggest killer of men under 50 is not getting the attention it deserves.

Jane Powell is the founder and director of Calm, the Campaign Against Living Miserably, which specifically deals with male suicide. “If you’re a mum, a dad, a loved one, you want to worry about the biggest threat,” she says. “And yet we worry about assault levels, rather than the real killer – suicide.” She makes a provocative case: that while breast cancer does kill men, we rightly focus on it as a female disease. In the same way, suicide prevention has to focus on men. “We need to name the issue,” she says.

Why are so many more men killing themselves than women? “Is it biologically set in stone that men take their own lives – or is it cultural?” Powell asks. “If you look at how the suicide rates have changed, how they go up and down, you can see that it’s cultural – it’s about what we expect.” And this is what is so troubling about male suicide. Women are actually more likely to suffer from depression, but more likely to seek help whey encounter trouble. The uncomfortable truth is that stereotypical forms of masculinity – stiff upper lips, “laddishness” – are killing men.

Read the rest over at The Guardian website.

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