There’s few harder things in life than admitting you might need help. I can’t go about comparing genders but I can confidently say this is one category where being a man is difficult. Society has such a ridiculous expectation of what being a man is that any sniff of one not being able to hold it all together is met with a shrug or ridicule. We’re grown up to follow such instructions as ‘grow a pair’ or ‘be a man’, meaning push away the emotion, bottle it up and solve whatever issue needs solving.
Men are three times more likely to commit suicide than women, with over 5,000 men in the UK committing suicide this past year alone. Of that number, men in their middle ages are twice as likely to kill themselves as the rest of the population. It is a worry that has been described by medical personnel as ‘the silent epidemic’. There may be multiple reasons why society drives men to the edge, but the real worry lies in - having been pushed there - are still reluctant to seek help. A report in 2013 stated that 75% of male suicides that year had never been diagnosed with a mental health condition, squashing the brutal assumption that only those unwell and disturbed are likely to take their own life. The reality is these men are just normal products of our society, a society which encourages men to deal with emotions themselves, or worse - stifle them completely.
In a world where male children are encouraged to ‘man up’ when they fall, the mindset spreads so evidently to an adult stage. The lack of education of how to deal with low feelings results with completely confusion and worry when they surface. Men are prone to more impulsive suicides than women, and by much more violent methods. It suggests that the inability to work with their vulnerabilities makes the ‘quick exit’ strategy so much more appealing.
It all makes for incredibly grim reading, and it should be taken incredibly seriously. But there are substantial ways we can go about solving some of these problems. The most important and the most difficult is to start teaching men how to deal with their emotions. Such a skill is perfectly possible alongside a macho existence and would result in preventing the huge impulsive worry they face when they are at their lowest point. This is beginning to change and will undoubtedly be the long term aim, but right now discussing the issue in the open and suggesting free help such as the Samaritans is one of the most effective tools we have.
As we develop as a society, gender roles are relaxing. I hope others will feel comfortable with their sexuality and their mental health as I have, and reached out knowing doing so doesn’t comprise what it means to be a man. During my lowest moments I sought help and have gone forward a more stable man because of it. I hope we aim to continue to raise awareness and continue to create an environment where such issues are discussed freely and confidentially.
Unlike cancer, this is completely preventable. And if you’re a man between 20 and 49, you’re more likely to die from it than cancer, road accidents or heart diseases. This is a preventable epidemic, and we’re not quite doing enough to prevent it yet.
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