Suicide is the biggest cause of death of men under 45 in the UK. While suicidal feelings are more common than you would think, 75% of people who act on those feelings are male. So why is male suicide so prevalent, and how can you help someone who is suicidal?
Why is male suicide so prevalent?
Statistically, women are more likely to have depression and anxiety than men, but is this really the case, or is it that women talk about it more and seek help? Many men turn to alcohol or take drugs to self-medicate their feelings away, so their problems remain hidden, sometimes until it’s too late.
‘Boys don’t cry’
Boys are brought up believing that being tough and strong is the ideal, that boys don’t cry, and that emotions are ‘for girls’. Talking about feelings is just not done, and for many men, opening up about how they feel is a step too far.
But starting the conversation about mental health is exactly what needs to be done if we’re going to buck this awful trend of men taking their own lives in desperation. We need to ask how people are really feeling, and not be so ready to take ‘I’m fine’ as an answer, if something doesn’t feel right.
What are the signs that someone might be suicidal?
Many people who feel suicidal, or go on to actually act on it, don’t want to die. They’re just in extreme pain and they want to escape from it. These are the signs to look out for if you think someone is suicidal.
They think a lot about death and dying: They might openly voice that they want to die, or think about death and dying a lot. They might even go to the lengths of researching ways to end their life.
They start making plans: They might update their will, start giving away possessions, or start saying goodbye to people in a way that feels final, even if people don’t realise it at the time.
They become withdrawn: They might have been a previously happy and outgoing person, but feeling suicidal can make them withdraw from friends and family, and avoid activities and social occasions.
They might verbally indicate pain or self-loathing: They might say things like ‘Everyone would be better off without me’ or ‘There’s no point in anything anymore.’
They can have mood swings: They might go from depressed and anxious, to moody, angry, or even aggressive. But the thing to watch out for is that if someone finally decides that they’re going to commit suicide, they feel better, so it might seem like their mood suddenly improves.
They might drink more or take drugs: This increases the risk of suicide, because inhibitions are lowered and judgement is affected. Being under the influence can give someone the ‘confidence’ they need to go through with it.
They might act recklessly: They might drive dangerously or engage in other risky behaviours because they’ve stopped caring.
How can you help someone who feels suicidal?
You don’t need to suddenly assume the role of a doctor or psychiatrist, you just need to be compassionate, calm, and ready to listen. If they’re not ready to talk, tell them you’re there when they’re ready. Don’t judge or blame the person, as this will make it harder for them to open up to you. Ask them direct questions like ‘are you feeling suicidal?’ or ‘have you thought about ending your life?’ Don’t be afraid that actually mentioning suicide will make them do it, in fact, it can make them less likely to act on their feelings, because they might finally feel able to admit that they’re in pain.
If there’s an immediate risk to their safety, or yours
If you think that someone is intent on committing suicide, stay with them and:
- Call their GP or out of hours service and ask for an emergency appointment
- If they are under a Community Mental Health Team, contact them for advice. The Crisis team might be needed.
- Encourage them to call a helpline, like the Samaritans
- Or if the situation is a bit more critical, try and take the person to the nearest A&E department, or call 999.*
*If someone has attempted suicide, call 999 and stay with them until the ambulance arrives.
Our Mental Health First Aid course aims to raise awareness about mental health. It looks at what mental health is and how to challenge stigma, common mental health problems, looking after your own mental health and wellbeing, and how to support someone who is mentally unwell and might be distressed.
For more information on any of our mental health awareness training courses, click here.