Suicide, stigma and seeking help: the hard facts

Suicide, stigma and seeking help: the hard facts

The latest figures on suicide released by the Office for National Statistics show a worrying gender inequality. British men are over three times more likely to die by suicide than British women. This gender gap has widened significantly since 1981, when statistics showed that men were 1.9 times more likely to die by suicide than women.

The male suicide rate is now the highest since 2001, and the highest in men aged 45-59 since 1981. The challenging economic environment and its social impact must be acknowledged as a factor that influences suicide rates, but why is suicide amongst men so much more common than amongst women, and what can be done about it?

Masculine gender norms

Arguably one of the biggest influencers on male suicide rates is the impact of the ‘masculine ideal’ on men who are suffering with mental health issues. Men who have been conditioned throughout life to live up to the traditionally male role of protector and provider can find it difficult to cope when they themselves feel vulnerable. Often men will internalise their mental anguish, while women in the same position are more likely to confide in friends or family and talk about their problems.

There is also an increased likelihood of men developing feelings of disappointment or inadequacy as they reach middle age. Perhaps they haven’t achieved all they thought they would, or feel that they have failed in their duty as a husband, father or son. Claire Wyllie, head of policy and research at Samaritans, said:

“Society has this masculine ideal that people are expecting to live up to… when men don’t live up to that it can be quite devastating for them.”

As gender roles and societal expectations change, masculine gender norms will likely become less significant. But for men at midlife, these expectations have been entrenched since childhood, and can have a huge impact on their mental health and feelings of self-worth.

The stigma of seeking help

There is a reluctance among men to seek help and support with mental health issues. The stigma associated with appearing ‘weak’ or vulnerable means that many men cope with their mental health issues by self-medicating with alcohol or drugs, rather than finding professional help.

Self-medication can worsen repressed mental health issues, and lead to further problems in other areas of a man’s life such as work and maintaining relationships. Professor Louis Appleby, chair of National Suicide Prevention Advisory Group in England, said:

“We need to make it easier for men to find help without shame or stigma.”

Therapy for men

The causes of male suicide are complex and will differ for every individual case, but coping with depression or suicidal thoughts can be made easier with therapy. Men with busy schedules, who do not want to meet face-to-face, or who wish to have therapy sessions at varying times can all benefit from Ieso therapy. Our discreet online cognitive behaviour therapy courses can help men of all ages to cope with mental health issues before they reach a crisis point.

Published 19 Nov 2015
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