There were 392 suicides recorded in Ireland last year, a scary 8 out of 10 Irish suicides were men. In this blog post I will be discussing Men’s Mental Health. I discuss how the stigma became the silent killer which leads to a global crisis among men. I also share a handful of excellent websites and apps that promote men’s mental health.
University College Dublin sociologist Anne Cleary found a common theme among 52 young Irish men who survived suicide attempts. She discovered that they all expressed reluctance to disclose to anyone the “significant, long-lasting” emotional pain they felt. Instead, they used alcohol and drugs to cope. This then increased their levels of distress, and ultimately leading to a time where suicide became the only option.
A recent survey carried out by the UK’s Mental Health Foundation shows that men are less likely than women to seek professional support or disclose mental health problems to friends and family.
28% of men surveyed admitted they had not sought medical help
25% of the men told friends or family about the problem within a month of it arising.
Men’s Mental Health Stereotypes
The common stereotype for men’s mental health is that “real men” are self-reliant and strong to the point of physical and emotional invulnerability.
Some sub-groups of men are also more vulnerable to suicide. This includes gay and transgender men, Indigenous men and those vulnerable to Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder, such as first responders and soldiers. Research shows that men who are in a lower socioeconomic class are also more likely to try to kill themselves also.
And age is a factor. Suicide is often thought of as a young person’s problem as research shows that the group most likely to kill themselves are actually middle aged men. Nine of every 100,000 men 15 to 19 died of suicide, while 28 of every 100,000 who are 45 to 54 did. (The rate for women 45 to 54 is only 8.5 of 100,000.)
Here’s what the US Air Force did to combat Suicide…
The U.S. Air Force successfully dropped suicide levels beginning in the 1990s by setting up 11 initiatives which normalize distress, encourage seeking help and educate leadership about warning signs of suicidality. After the program started, the mean suicide rate dropped from 3 per 100,000 to 2.4 per 100,000.
Mental Health + Ireland
Ireland recorded nearly 400 SUICIDES in 2017, with men accounting for almost eight in 10 deaths.
When Ireland had a spike in men’s suicides, they adopted Australian’s Men’s Sheds initiative, where men gather to complete projects and chat, reducing isolation in older and unemployed men in particular and Canada has also recently started embracing men’s sheds. (There is evidence that the sheds reduce isolation, though their direct effect on mental health is still unproven.)
Offering more mental health resources online and through apps might be one way to make those services more attractive to men. Online approaches for most men work much better. So we need to give them a mechanism to find out answers on their own before they’re ready to seek help.
The number of websites tailored to men’s mental health is growing. #SickNotWeak, which was created by sports journalist Michael Landsberg, encourages users to talk about mental illness. Kids Help Phone started a “BroTalk” portal in 2015, that’s tailored to teenage men. And Head’s Up Guys, which is based out of UBC and which Oliffe consulted on, has seen 350,000 visitors since it launched in 2015. He hopes its simple design and action-oriented terms will help men feel more comfortable.
A similar site in the U.S., called Man Therapy, uses humor to make men more comfortable with talking. It highlights messages like “a mustache is no place to hide your emotions” and “sometimes a man just needs a pork shoulder to cry on.”
The site includes personal stories from men who have overcome mental illness and a self-assessment tool for depression and anxiety and directs people to
- self-help resources
- crisis hotlines
- local therapists.
Need help? Support is available:
- Samaritans 116 123 or email firstname.lastname@example.org
- Aware 1800 80 48 48 (depression, anxiety)
- Pieta House 1800 247 247 or email email@example.com(suicide, self-harm)
- Teen-Line Ireland 1800 833 634 (for ages 13 to 19)
- Childline 1800 66 66 66 (for under 18s)
A list of HSE and HSE-funded services can be found here.
Read more about Depression over at Mental Health + Me – Depression