'In the past year there has been a 44% increase
in the rate of self harm among boys.'
National Self-harm Registry Ireland annual report 2014
The male suicide rate has been scandalously neglected for decades. In 1975 the male:female ratio was 2.3:1. It steadily increased in the intervening period and in 2011 reached 5:1, since which it has fallen back slightly to about 4:1. It amounts to a social malaise. In all that time the question was not asked: Why are men in particular killing themselves at such a rate?
The male suicide rate amounts to a social malaise but the basic question has not been asked:
Why are men killing themselves at such a rate?
CONNECTING TO LIFE DOCUMENT
The major document "Connecting for Life " published in 2015 mentions as necessary aims:
Identification of economic and social factors that increase the risk of suicidal behaviour;
- An overview of the previous suicide prevention strategy;
- The efficacy of different types of suicide policy interventions;
- The requirement for a whole-of-government approach to suicide prevention.
Yet it fails to ask the most basic question: Why? Why men? And at such alarming rates?
The evidence would point to a combination of targeted interventions having an impact on suicide prevention.
THE YOUNG MEN AND SUICIDE PROJECT
The Young Men and Suicide Project in its report http://www.mhfi.org/ymspfullreport.pdf (Jan.2013) says:
“The case, therefore, for an increased focus on mental health promotion and suicide prevention among boys and young men is unequivocal, and is underpinned by a strong evidence base and a clear policy mandate.”
It adds that another key factor is:
“Social and community factors - such as rapid societal change, changing gender roles, and the socio-economic impact of recession. Marital and parental status - there is a higher risk in divorced and widowed men.
The role of social and community factors such as Separation/Divorce, school drop-out, long-term unemployment, domestic violence have not been sufficiently recognised."
The overall increase in suicide rate in Ireland between 2007 and 2011 during the recession can be wholly attributed to an increase in the male rate of suicide .
In 2012, 82.3% (14/17 ) of all those who died by suicide were men, with the highest rate of suicide among 45 to 54 year old men. The lowest rate for male suicide in 2012 was in the 65+ age group.
TARGETING MEN AT RISK
Specific life events where men have little or no support and yet which have heightened risk of suicide include both during and after divorce or separation, when suffering at the hands of an abusive partner, school dropout, and after losing jobs. This last was highlighted during the recession when the overall increase in suicide was attributed to an increase in the male rate.
Men suffer badly in the Family Law courts. Men who are separated face particular problems: they will probably lose the family home, pay maintenance while trying to maintain themselves, often face access difficulties, particularly if unmarried, and altogether face isolation.
These may well be crucial factors in making men, particularly young men, feel they are unwelcome in society.
A SUCCESSFUL MODEL
As further evidence to support a gender-based approach we can point to the Scottish model in the form of their Choose Life programme which deliberately made the choice to focus on male victims of suicide and saw a concomitant reduction in gendered suicide rates, as well as a reduction in suicide overall, something we have yet to achieve.
Their headline statistics show :
MALE:FEMALE SUICIDE RATIOS IN SOME OTHER COUNTRIES
New Zealand 2.66:1
Why is the ratio for Ireland so much larger is the natural question which arises.