What 6 Mental Health Experts Want You To Know About Male Suicide
What 6 Mental Health Experts Want You To Know About Male Suicide

What 6 Mental Health Experts Want You To Know About Male Suicide


Suicide is the number one cause of death for men under 50, with men accounting for 75% of all UK suicides. September is Suicide Awareness Month, so we went to the experts to learn more…
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Know The Numbers

“Over 5,000 people die by suicide annually in the UK, with men three times as likely as women to take their own life. At present, men account for around 75% of suicides in the UK, with an average of 13 men dying as a result of suicide each day. Back in 2020, it was announced the number of male suicides had reached a two-decade high in England and Wales, with the increase in numbers largely linked to the pandemic. However, these figures remain steady, and mental health experts agree this is due to the cost-of-living crisis. For men in particular – who often have the gendered stereotype of being the ones who bring in the money – the financial strain of the last few years will undoubtedly have had an impact on men’s perceptions of themselves, and their ability to provide for their families.” – Kate Bithell, mental health expert at Delamere

Understand It’s Okay Not To Be Okay

“Many men don’t realise the problems they’re experiencing are mental health conditions, so they are less likely to seek help, putting them at an increased risk of suicide. Worryingly, it’s also more common for men to self-medicate instead of seeking help in order to cope with difficult emotions. Alcoholism is more common in men and this can be linked to suicide. We’ve come a long way with the way mental health is spoken about and reported on in the UK, but there’s still room for improvement. Mental health still has a lot of stigma attached to it that makes people afraid or unable to speak about what they are experiencing. This stigma can be extremely damaging to those struggling with suicidal thoughts, as it may stop them from reaching out for help. When it comes to mental health and suicide, prevention is always better than cure.” – Kate

Look For The Warning Signs

“If someone is struggling, you may notice they are withdrawn from activities they used to enjoy, such as going out with friends, or they seem disconnected from work or others around them. You may also notice unusual behaviour, or behaviour that seems out of character, such as dramatic shifts in emotion, or their usual everyday functioning at work or school has suddenly dropped. There are also more subtle signs that may indicate someone is at risk of suicide, including increasing alcohol consumption, worsening drug abuse, being careless about taking medication, driving recklessly or engaging in more reckless behaviours, buying unusual items that could be used for self-harm, and giving up on personal hygiene or other positive habits.” – Kate

Keep An Open Mind

“It’s important to understand that everyone copes and reacts in their own way, and some men might display just one symptom, while for others, it’s two or more. It’s also worth being mindful of difficult situations which may trigger suicidal thoughts – like bereavement, financial problems, job-related stress or family and relationship problems. Always act if you notice a friend has suddenly become distant; is talking about feeling hopeless, helpless or worthless; or talks about feeling trapped by circumstances they can’t see a way out of, or they feel it hard to cope with everyday things. Reaching out to someone you care about is important – it helps them know you care and that they are valued.” – Katie Hardcastle, senior research manager at Samaritans

Be Aware On Social Media

“If you see someone posting worrying things on social media, don’t be afraid to step in. Ask your friend directly whether they are thinking about suicide. Or say something along the lines of, ‘I know you’re going through a lot. I just wanted to talk and hear about how you’re feeling.’ Empathising with their situation and asking open-ended questions may make them more likely to open up to you. You can always report a post to the social media platform if you are worried, but they may just remove the post and not offer support to the individual.” – Kate

Talk About It

“A friendly conversation or simple acts of kindness can make a critical difference to someone who is feeling suicidal. Suicide can seem frightening and overwhelming, and it’s natural for many of us to want to look the other way. But just talking and showing you care can be an incredible help. Being someone who’s been there, I know being listened to and getting the right help quickly is vital. Whether it’s mental health, addiction, financial problems or other issues, it often feels like no one else will understand what we’re going through. Most people that take their own life have not sought help so that’s where we need to make the helping hand more visible and accessible. Once we reach out for help and are willing to receive it, then our perspective can change to one of hope and purpose.” – Gary Smith, mental health speaker at the Informal

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Talking about suicide is tough. Here, the experts share their advice for engaging a friend you are concerned about…

Say The Word

“Asking someone if they are suicidal is probably the single most important thing you can do. There’s a misconception that you can put the idea in someone’s head if you bring it up, but this simply isn’t true. In fact, if someone is suicidal, it can be a huge relief for someone to ask you the question. Don’t be afraid to be direct – ask them if they are okay, and be prepared to do this several times. Consider taking Zero Suicide Alliance’s free 20-minute training, which will give you the confidence to talk to someone about suicide.” – Jane Boland, clinical lead at James’ Place

Don’t Judge

“If someone tells you they are having suicidal thoughts, always take them seriously. You don’t have to be able to solve their problems, but encourage them to talk about how they’re feeling. Try not to compare what they’re going through with your own experiences, and try not to solve their problems.” – Katie

Be An Active Listener

“Often, the most important thing is just to listen. Repeat what they say back to them in your own words to show you hear them and to clarify understanding. Reassure them that they won’t feel this way forever. Help them make an appointment with their GP for a referral for longer-term support, and offer to go with them if they would find this easier.” – Smriti Joshi, chief psychologist at Wysa

Validate Their Feelings

“Even if you can’t relate directly, make it clear that you understand their feelings. Stress to them that emotions change – today’s despair can shift tomorrow. Remember that with the right support, recovery is possible.” – Elena Touroni, consultant psychologist & co-founder of The Chelsea Psychology Clinic 

Make A Safety Plan

“Once you’ve got an idea of their emotional state, suggest making a ‘safety plan’ together, which will lay out steps for coping in a crisis, helping them make sure they have the support they need going forward. You can create one together, and both keep copies to refer to. It’s also important to know when to seek professional support, and when to step back to look after yourself.” – Katie

Advise Them On Support

“Suicidal thoughts can be scary, worrying and difficult to deal with, but with the right support it is possible to overcome them. Professional help – ideally in the form of a therapist or counsellor – can help someone explore and understand what led to these feelings in the first place, as well as provide treatment plans to get them back on track. With the right support network, self-care and compassion, it’s possible to move towards a healthier future. CBT can be a good technique to help men with suicidal thoughts as it helps the individual to feel in control of their feelings and provides a structured approach to therapy.” – Kate

Keep Showing Up

“Suicide prevention is never about one conversation. If a friend or family member is vulnerable, they need constant support. Never underestimate how big an impact supporting another person who feels like ending their own life could have.” – Gary

Where to get help…  

“If suicidal thoughts are intense, repetitive or distressing, seek help immediately. If you live in London or the north-west, contact James’ Place via JamesPlace.org.uk/support or call the Samaritans on 116 123. Check out Hub of Hope for services near you – there are lots of great community-led initiatives out there, such as Men’s Sheds, or Head in the Game, a fantastic football initiative.” – Jane

“There are some great charities out there. SOS (Silence of Suicide), The Listening Place, SP-UK and CALM are all fantastic and hands on. CALM in particular is great – it’s leading a movement against male suicide. Podcasts have been a huge part of my recovery – I recommend Happy Place, Sober Cast, Feel Better Live More and On Purpose.” – Gary

“Don’t dismiss the idea of a male support group. Talking with people who understand what you’re going through will help you realise you aren’t alone in your struggles, which men often think is the case. At Delamere, support groups are a key part of our treatment plans.” – Kate

“If you are concerned for your own or someone else’s safety, call 999 or go to A&E as soon as possible. To talk to someone immediately, call the Samaritans on 116 123 or email [email protected]. The Samaritans are available 24/7 and are completely anonymous.” – Katie

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