Each year, 42,773 American commit suicide – with men dying by suicide 3.5 times more often than women. While this statistic may be surprising to most, especially since about twice as many women as men experience depression, the issue has become a major concern in both the UK and U.S.
Last year, Lynx teamed up with Campaign Against Living Miserably (Calm) to raise awareness of male suicide through their provocative #BiggerIssues campaign. The importance of the campaign was highlighted after it was revealed that suicide remains the UK’s single biggest cause of death among men under the age of 45, while the suicide rate of women has fallen significantly.
In 2014, white males accounted for 7 of 10 suicides in the United States. Sexism and masculinity ideals are believed to be at the root of the problem. For example, while women are more likely to talk to or seek help from a friend or professional, it is believed men refrain from sharing their feelings from fear that they may appear weak or feminine.
“But too often they don’t feel comfortable doing so with friends, family and colleagues,” said Jane Powell, chief executive of Calm. “We see from the research that men feel they shouldn’t need such support, that they are failing as a man when feeling suicidal.”
Comedian Josh Thomas Ward addressed the issue in a similar manner whilst appearing on ABC’s Q&A:
“I feel like part of the issue is this idea that [men] are meant to be resilient.”
“This surprised me: Men commit suicide at a rate of 3:1 to women. Which is crazy, because it’s better to be a dude!”
“You get paid more. You get male privilege. You’ve got the patriarchy on your side. You don’t menstruate. It’s good! It’s really good!”
“Up until the age of 8 or 9, boys cry the same amount as girls. … and then they get taught to stop. They’re not allowed anymore.”
“And it’s ridiculous! And this fear of looking weak or looking feminine or looking gay is stopping men from talking about their feelings.”
The idea of masculinity – and the many sexist notions it carries – can be seen within suicide prevention campaigns. Therefore, it is hardly surprising that a large percentage of suicidal men find it near impossible to reach out to someone in their time of need.
“We don’t look at suicide prevention messages with men in mind, and certainly not with any level of sophistication. Putting a man holding his head on a leaflet isn’t going to work,” said Powell.
“I’ve seen suicide prevention policies launched with aplomb in parliament, where the actions and budgets have been decided, plans arranged, and yet no thought at that point, the point of the launch, had been given about how to reach men. This beggars belief. No corporate brand aimed at men would get away with such action.”
Image: Flickr, Victor
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