Suicide risk in men

The National Confidential Inquiry into Suicide and Safety in Mental Health (NCISH) recently published a study into suicide by middle aged men. The findings help us to recognise the risk factors for suicide and to respond to the needs of men to support their safety.

Middle aged men aged 40-54 years continue to have the highest suicide rate in the UK; the rate is three times higher than women of the same age.

Key risk factors for middle aged men include:

  • Mental health diagnosis
  • Physical health condition
  • Alcohol and drug misuse
  • Bereavement
  • Unemployment
  • Financial and housing problems
  • Relationship break-up
  • Social isolation
  • Problems at work

For further information, see Manchester University - Suicide by middle-aged men.

 

We are aware that for men, approaching and asking for help can sometimes be more difficult. There are unique struggles for everyone, but in men there are some identified barriers that you may resonate with:

  • Masculine stereotypes that hinder reaching out for support – Researchers (Wong et al., 2017) found that this was related to certain specific, stereotypically masculine traits. For example, men who valued self-reliance were more prone to suffer poor mental health, likely because they had difficulty seeking support. It may be the case that being less stoic and more forgiving will allow more men to get help when needed.
  • Men and woman experience mental health difficulties differently – Not everything that worked for your mother or your female relatives will always work for you. Finding what makes you decompress in a healthy way (avoid reliance on drugs and alcohol) is important in self-care and mental wellbeing. We are continuing to learn about these differences, such as how male depression differs to female.
  • Acknowledging vulnerabilities and weakness – This can sometimes be daunting and completely foreign, especially to some men. However, it’s only in accepting that we are not the ‘super-men’ that is portrayed and being honest. Sometimes bravado and coping behaviours can be downplayed or even celebrated (“it’s only a couple of drinks”) – but being frank with yourself is important. Becoming a better person is the manliest thing you can do.

Lennox - Movember poster

Some quick and easy tips to try

  • Some men thrive through exercise and physical activity. Engaging in regular activity (Sunday league, rugby union) is good for morale and physical health.
  • Reach out – chat to a mate when you start to hide yourself away. You can also have a chat with one of our wellbeing team.
  • Have a chat with someone who will listen and not ‘fix’ – a mate, colleague, family or us. Be listened to – have a chat and get it off your chest.
  • Keep up with your routine – or add new structure to your day.
  • Get outside for a short walk.
  • Make a motivational playlist – Spotify, Soundcloud and YouTube can help with these.
  • Read a motivational or inspirational quote to get perspective.
  • Do something new like volunteering – there are many men’s but also other charities that could use some help.
  • Take up a new hobby.
  • Get out of your comfort zone – feel a sense of achievement from this.
  • Stop and pause – take time to check in with your head by using mindfulness, writing or meditation.
  • Focus on breathing – breathe in and out slowly for 3 minutes.
  • Switch off – in a way that works for you, with a book, film, video game etc.
  • Ask a mate how they are – doing something for a mate can make you feel better.

Resources

  • Headups Guy: For more information about men’s mental health and practical support.
  • Zero Suicide Alliance Training: This training will provide you with the skills to help someone who needs support; this could be a colleague, friend or family member.

Updated on: 20/04/2022