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Policymakers must address high male suicide rates

19 February 2015

5:15 PM

19 February 2015

5:15 PM

It’s pretty tough to find good news in suicide statistics, but today’s figures for 2013 are particularly grim reading. The number of suicides increased from 2012, and the male suicide rate is now at its highest since 2001. The male rate of suicide has increased significantly since 2007, where it stood at 16.6 deaths per 100,000 population, to 19.0 deaths per 100,000 as the graph below shows:

It used to be the case that young men were the most likely to kill themselves, but the highest suicide rate in the UK is now for men aged 45 to 59, at 25.1 deaths per 100,000. This is the highest for that group since 1981.


Is this ‘just one of those things’, or is there something in these figures that policymakers should be adjusting to? In the magazine last year, I argued that the suicide figures for men are just one of a raft of metrics that suggest Britain is suffering from a crisis of masculinity.

There are many, many problems that women face in this country today, but many of the problems that seem to affect men disproportionately are still being shrugged off as one of those things, rather than something that needs urgently addressing. Labour’s Diane Abbott has expressed worries about this, too, arguing that the crisis of masculinity is something that should worry feminists.

The policy response seems rather slow, and although people are gradually becoming more open about mental health, there remains a greater reluctance on the part of men to visit the doctor, not just about psychiatric problems, but also about physical health problems too, which means they are more susceptible to late diagnoses of illnesses that could have been curable earlier. Until we stop thinking this an odd social phenomenon and start viewing it as something that policymakers need to address, we’ll keep coming across grim statistics like those released today.

P.S. Anyone who does need help should contact the Samaritans. Here’s their website and their number is 08457 909090.

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