Understanding the Causes of Male Suicide: Work and Responsibility

If you are a man the chances are that you struggle to ask for help. The ideas that we have about how to “be and man” say that we should be strong and independent. They say we should be able to solve all our problems on our own with time left over to go the pub and get a pint. This is a problematic way of thinking and results in men being much less likely to seek help when we need it.

The roles that men take are changing rapidly due economics, technology and even feminism and men, well, we aren’t dealing with this too well. We are more likely to be homeless, to be addicted to something, to perform worse in education. In short we aren’t coping. Now male suicide sits at a 15 year high with over 4500 men taking their lives in a year in England and Wales. For women the trend has been mostly downward. As a result men now account of 78% of suicides.

CALM recently produced a report which attempts to understand the causes of male suicide. They spoke with over 1000 people. The aim was to try and find out what makes men tick and more precisely what makes them take the batteries out. This is part one of Year of the Male’s look through to see what we can learn.

The first main section of the report we find ourselves in is all about work. Men tend to invest a lot of ourselves in our jobs.  42% of men think that they should be the main bread winner in a relationship. With women much more likely to have full careers than ever you might think that this pressure would ease. However many men don’t seem to have caught up with this new reality 81% of men felt that the pressure to be the main bread was put on them by themselves. Our own ideas of what we should be seem to be based in the ideals of the 1950s nuclear family where we represent a core stability that our family needs.

In addition 29% of men thought that they would be seen as less of a man by their partners if they lost their jobs. In contrast only 5% of men and 3% of women would see their partners and less of their respective gender if they lost their job. Again we see that men are putting pressure on themselves to meet expectations that aren't there, the most likely source seems to be an attempt to live up to their stereotype of what makes a “man”.

Men also seem to suffer worse when they do lose their jobs.  They were more likely to report financial problems, issues with self-esteem, an impact to both mental health and physical health after losing a job.  They are more likely to turn to drink or turn to drugs or see relationship breakdown. In short men suffer more when they lose their jobs; which isn’t exactly a pleasant experience for anyone.

Given the emotional weight that men invest in to their jobs there is a need to make sure that men who have recently lost their jobs are supported to make sure that they don’t slip into prolonged health issues. There may even be a need to consider unemployed men an at risk group given their apparent propensity to form habits which are bad for their health.

Men also aspire to role of head of that 1950s nuclear family at home by taking charge of financial and legal matters and being a rock during a crisis.

Just under a third of men (31%) who were surveyed thought that men should take responsibility of the finical matters 0% of men felt that men should be less responsible than women. Only 12% of women felt that men should be more responsible than them. Yet again we see that men feel pressured to take responsibility than women think they should be under putting them at risk of getting over stressed.

The same trend holds if there is a crisis. 43% of men felt that this is the more of the responsibility for taking practical charge in a crisis compare to 16% of women. Men also felt more responsible for providing the emotional strength during a crisis with 42% saying it is more their responsibility compared to 17% of women.

Ok, I through a lot of stats at you there. The point is that men are putting pressure on themselves to be the rock in a crisis. The more pressure you put on yourself the more likely you are to find yourself at breaking point.

Where this pressure comes from is not clear. It seems likely that we can point the blame our ideas of what a man should be. The idea that we should be strong, that we don’t cry that we protect and provide rather than offer emotional support. That we have to be an immoveable rock that doesn’t need support ourselves.

Men are putting themselves under a lot of pressure to be the one who is in control, failure to live up to this ideal puts us at risk of taking risky behaviours and having low self esteem. We are placing undue pressure on ourselves which can lead to our lives spiralling out of control. Men need help and this must be acknowledged before action can be taken. There is a need for society to say it’s OK for men to seek help, it’s OK to feel lost and that we are there for them.

This is part one of a three part series here are parts two and three.