SUICIDE is the single biggest cause of death for men under the age of 45 in Britain.
Fewer blokes die in car crashes, or from heart disease and even cancer every year.
And shocking new figures suggest that the number of men who take their own lives is on the rise.
But why are men at a higher risk of suicide than women?
Here, Owen Sharp, chief executive of the Movember Foundation, which is committed to changing the face of men’s health, discusses his thoughts…
Men are in trouble.
New stats released last month by the ONS, showed an alarming rise in the numbers of people who took their own lives last year.
Although the reasons for this aren’t yet clear, we do know that that men were particularly affected. In 2018 the male suicide rate rose by 12 per cent.
Three out of the four people who die by suicide each year are male. And it remains the biggest killer of men under 44.
No simple solution
Something has to be done to stop lives being cut short and prevent families losing out on years with the fathers, sons, brothers and friends they love.
There are no simple solutions to this crisis because everyone is influenced by different factors.
But one argument is that the way men are brought up – believing that they have to be invincible, controlled and self-reliant at all times – is a big part of the problem.
If they feel they aren’t living up to that standard, they (wrongly) class themselves as failures
For many men, having a job and being able to provide for and take care of their family is a central part of being a man – particularly for working class blokes.
If they feel they aren’t living up to that standard, they (wrongly) class themselves as failures.
Having close mates who you can talk to and rely on in a crisis is vital for good mental health.
But our research has shown that 47 per cent of men in the UK wouldn’t talk to anyone about their problems, compared to 63 per cent of women.
YOU’RE NOT ALONE
EVERY 90 minutes in the UK a life is lost to suicide.
It doesn’t discriminate, touching the lives of people in every corner of society – from the homeless and unemployed to builders and doctors, reality stars and footballers.
It’s the biggest killer of people under the age of 35, more deadly than cancer and car crashes.
And men are three times more likely to take their own life than women.
Yet it’s rarely spoken of, a taboo that threatens to continue its deadly rampage unless we all stop and take notice, now.
That is why The Sun launched the You’re Not Alone campaign.
The aim is that by sharing practical advice, raising awareness and breaking down the barriers people face when talking about their mental health, we can all do our bit to help save lives.
Let’s all vow to ask for help when we need it, and listen out for others… You’re Not Alone.
If you, or anyone you know, needs help dealing with mental health problems, the following organisations provide support:
On average, the men we asked said they only had three close friends. A third said they did not have any pals they could turn to.
Our study also found that men’s friendships tend to get weaker as they get older because work and family are the main priorities.
Men are more likely to rely on their partners for emotional support. But if that relationship breaks down, they are less likely to be able to cope.
Men are also more likely than women to be separated from their kids after a break up.
But even blokes who appear to be the life and soul of the party and seem to have plenty of mates, aren’t always comfortable talking about what’s going on in their heads.
And if they’re going through a bad patch, they struggle on in silence or they don’t ask for help until it’s too late.
Challenge outdated stereotypes
We need to start challenging outdated stereotypes about what it means to be a man and make it OK for them to open up and get the support they need.
As the leading men’s health charity, one of the ways Movember is working to tackle the problem is to get men to understand what good mental health looks like.
We talk about why it’s important and give them the tools they need to build resilience needed to tackle their mental health.
We go to their workplaces, barber shops, boxing gyms, football and rugby grounds – the places where men get together and have a laugh with their mates.
We spread the word that spending time with your friends is good for you and why bottling things up isn’t.
Men are more likely to rely on their partners for emotional support – but if that relationship breaks down, they are less likely to be able to cope
Because blokes seem to find it easier to open up when they are doing something else – whether that’s fixing the car, watching the footy or having a pint – the projects we invest in are based around activity, particularly team sports.
One example is The Changing Room, a 12-week programme, aimed at Hibernian fans between 30-64 and run by the Scottish Association for Mental Health.
It takes place at Hibs Easter Road stadium where the lads have a bit banter about football and address any issues they are facing.
It focuses on positive mental health and building a sense of trust and friendship between the guys who take part.
10 signs your loved one could be at risk of suicide
There are several warning signs that a person is at risk of suicide.
But it’s vital you know that they won’t always be obvious.
Lorna Fraser of the Samaritans said looking out for subtle personality changes in friends and family, especially if you know they have been going through a tough time.
These are the key signs to watch out for:
- A change in routine, such as sleeping or eating less than normal
- Lacking energy or appearing particularly tired
- Drinking, smoking or using drugs more than usual
- Finding it hard to cope with everyday things
- Not wanting to do things they usually enjoy
- Becoming withdrawn from friends and family – not wanting to talk or be with people
- Appearing more tearful
- Appearing restless, agitated, nervous, irritable
- Putting themselves down in a serious or jokey way, for example ‘Oh, no one loves me’, or ‘I’m a waste of space’
- Losing interest in their appearance, not liking or taking care of themselves or feeling they don’t matter
The bonds they forge with each other and the skills they learn on the course will (we hope) carry them through whatever lies ahead.
Another project we’ve invested in, aimed at younger men aged 16-24, is Brothers Through Boxing. The six-month programme includes boxing sessions to build mental and physical fitness, followed by group discussions on mental health.
The aim is for the group to bond, make new friends and to support each other through difficulties.
Later this year, we’ll be launching Ahead Of The Game, a training programme aimed at teenage boys in sports clubs, to teach them about positive mental health as well as tackling challenges and managing setbacks.
SAS: Who Dares Wins star Ant Middleton insists ‘boys should not cry’ but girls can
FORMER Special Forces tough guy Ant Middleton has insisted boys should not cry.
The star of Channel 4’s hit show SAS: Who Dares Wins admitted training his nine-year-old son Gabriel to control his emotions.
But he admits to being softer with daughter Shyla, 11.
Ant said: “I do say to him, ‘Son, come on, you’re a little man now, Have a stiffer upper lip’.
“If he was to fall over and hurt his knee and look up at me, I avoid eye contact. The moment he sees my eyes he’s going to start crying.
“However, if it was my daughter, I’d be straight over there to comfort her.”
Gabriel is keen on Thai boxing — but, if hurt, cries only if his mum takes him.
“That’s life. It’s not being sexist, it’s not being non- PC. I’ll say it how it is and, in my heart of hearts, I think I’m doing the right thing.”
It includes workshops for sports coaches and parents on spotting warning signs in teens and what to do about it.
It’s everyone’s responsibility to look out for each other. If you’re worried about a mate who you think might be struggling, there are things you can do to help.
You might not be able to fix someone else’s problems, but you can listen and sometimes that is the most helpful thing you can do.
That’s what Movember is all about. It’s a brotherhood working together to support each other through the tough times.
If we are to achieve our goal of reducing the number of male suicides by 25 per cent by 2030, we’ll need more men (and women) to join us.
The first step on that journey is to start talking.
If you are affected by any of the issues raised in this article, please call the Samaritans (free) on 116 123.