Statistics published in the Samaritans Suicide Statistics Report 2017 show there were 6,639 suicides in the UK and Republic of Ireland in 2015. The highest suicide rate during that year was for men aged 40 - 44, with a total of 4,997 males taking their lives in 2015. According to the Samaritans, men are 3 times more likely to take their own lives than women across the UK.
Men and suicide
Why men are more vulnerable to suicide than women is still not well understood. In its 2012 report entitled Men and suicide: why it's a social issue, the Samaritans looked at some of the reasons men are more likely to take their own lives.
It shows that men in mid-life are most at risk in terms of age, and that those from the lowest social class and living in the most deprived areas are up to 10 times more likely to die by suicide than others in the highest social class from the most affluent areas.
The report looked at a number of factors that may have an impact on someone taking their own life. Psychiatric illness - especially depression - is linked to many suicides, it says (though it's important to remember only a minority of people with mental health problems take their own life).
Other issues that affect men - particularly those who are working class - include the need to have a job and provide for their families and relationship problems. According to the Samaritans, when some men believe they're not fulfilling the role of provider they may feel a sense of shame and defeat, which may lead them to considering suicide.
Marriage breakdown is also more likely to lead men to suicide, as men tend to rely more on their partners for emotional support than women. Men are also more likely to live separately from their children as the result of relationship breakdowns, and this too may play a role in some men's suicides.
Another area the report pinpoints is that of emotional illiteracy. In general, many men across all social classes are reluctant to talk about their emotions, it says. They tend not to deal with emotional problems, and let them build up to breaking point. Men are far less positive about getting formal emotional support for their problems than women. And when they do, it's at the point of crisis.
How to spot the signs
According to the mental health charity Mind, many people think about suicide at some point in their lives. If it happens to you, here are some of the things you may think or feel:
- Everything's hopeless - what's the point in living?
- There's nothing positive in your life, everything's negative
- Everyone would be better off without you
- You're useless, unwanted or unneeded by others
- Your unbearable pain is never going to end
- You're physically numb - you feel cut off from your body
- Taking your own life is your only option
Meanwhile you may also experience things like sleeping problems (including waking too early), changes in your appetite and you may lose or gain weight. Your self-esteem may be very low, and you may try to avoid contact with other people, and feel no need to take care of yourself (including your physical appearance).
Spotting the signs in others
Spotting when someone else is thinking about suicide can be difficult. According to the NHS, someone may be at high risk of attempting suicide if they threaten to hurt or kill themselves; if they talk or write about death, dying or suicide; or if they actively look for ways to kill themselves, such as stockpiling tablets.
Some of the other signs that may warn someone is at risk of suicide include the following:
- They talk about feelings of hopelessness
- They have sudden episodes of rage and anger
- They act recklessly and take part in risky activities with no concern for the consequences
- They say they feel trapped, and that they can't see their way out of their problems
- They self-harm (this includes misusing drugs or alcohol)
- They become increasingly withdrawn or appear anxious and agitated
- They put their affairs in order (for example they may make a will)
The good news is that, according to Mind, the majority of people who have experienced suicidal feelings go on to live fulfilling lives if they get the support they need.
The second of this two-part series of articles about understanding suicide looks at what you can do if you're having feelings about suicide or if you want to help someone you think may be at risk. In the meantime, there are many organisations that can give you advice and support, including the following:
Call 116 123 any day, any time. If you prefer to express your feelings in writing, email firstname.lastname@example.org.
CALM is a resource for young men who are feeling unhappy. Call the helpline on 0800 58 58 58.
This voluntary organisation aims to support young people thinking about suicide and those who are concerned about a young person. Call 0800 068 41 41.
If you feel you're at risk you can also contact your GP for an emergency appointment or call NHS 111. If you need immediate help you can go to any hospital A&E department or call 999 and ask for an ambulance.
You can also talk to our trained Support Officers whenever you need emotional support. Our services are free, confidential and available 24/7. Call us on 0800 107 6163 or chat to one of our advisors online, any day or time.