Many people will be familiar with the statistic that 1 in 4 of us will experience a mental health problem each year.
With the most common being mixed anxiety and depression, affecting around 1 in 10 people.
Less common knowledge is that statistically, men are around 4 times more likely to comitt suicide than women.
Having claimed 5981 lives in the UK in 2012, suicide remains a major public health concern. With 4590 of those deaths being male, suicide is thought to be the single biggest cause of death for men under the age of 50, claiming 100 lives a week.
Over 90% of people who comitt suicide have clinical depression or another diagnosable mental health condition.
Despite attitudes toward mental illness starting to change, there is still a lack of understanding and stigma attached to mental health and depression.
Men are not only having to fight the stigma of mental health but also that towards gender roles.
As a society we tend to be more sympathetic to women and view men who cannot deal with their own issues as weak, and so men are more reluctant to admit to the problems they face, hence they do not receive as much support, which could lead to increased likelihood to attempt suicide.
Although attitudes towards traditional
masculinity and male roles have evolved, there is still strong gender stereotyped expectations, such as the idea that men should be strong and self sufficient and that asking for help is a sign of weakness and vulnerability.
Men are under immense pressure to be self reliant and make achievement a top priority.
Middle aged men, particularly from lower socio economic groups, living in deprived areas are 10 times more likely to comitt suicide than those living in affluent areas.
Older men who are being made redundant, and have come from an era where the role of the man was to be the breadwinner and provide for the family are suddenly finding themselves unemployed and searching for jobs where their qualifications and experience are no longer relevant, in a market where they are up against younger, ambitious and more tech savvy counterparts.
When a man has been bought up to base self worth on self sufficiency, what happens when you take that away and a man is no longer able to provide for himself or his family.
The media have a big part to play in the portrayal of masculinity.
Irresponsible advertising often reinforces and furthers gender stereotypes and the notion that guys need to “man up” or as quoted from the snickers advert “get some nuts”.
Loss of employment, and debt see many middle aged men facing the prospect of living in poverty, causing stress and not only a loss of identity but also a loss of masculinity.
The breakdown of relationships can have negative effects on both emotional and physical wellbeing.
As well as men being more likely to be separated from their children, middle aged men tend to have fewer friends than any other group and rely on their partners for emotional support.
Men who experience a relationship breakdown are more likely to turn to alcohol, substance misuse or other self destructive behaviours, as an outlet for their emotions as opposed to talking to family or friends. Misuse of alcohol is implicated in 65% of suicides in men who take their lives.
It can be argued that there are more support services in place for women, with drop in centres, floating support and specialist services making it easier for women to get access to help when they need it.
It’s only recently that we have started to see campaigns being launched to raise awareness and tackle issues such as domestic abuse against men, even though more than 40% of domestic violence victims are male.
More needs to be done to make support more effective and accessible.
With property prices rising at a faster rate than wages many people are forced to take out loans to pay their mortgage or rent.
Rising taxes, pay freezes and soaring household bills means around 9 million people in the UK are living in severe debt. With men more likely than women to be retiring in debt, owing an average of £45,300. Almost half of people struggling with debt consider suicide.
We need not only invest our money into mental health and support services but to also make sure we are investing our time towards challenging the damaging and outdated attitudes surrounding mental health and the roles and expectations we as a society assign to people based on gender.
We need to ensure that prevention measures are put in place, and practical support is available to prevent these crises from happening in the first place.
**Samaritans provides emotional support, 24 hours a day for people who are experiencing feelings of distress or thoughts of suicide. 08457 90 90 90**