Its’ good to talk – Tackling the male suicide crisis

It’s good to talk

It’s All in the Mind – Men and Mental health

As has been well documented this year tragically the biggest killer of men aged 20-49 is suicide. The highest rate of suicide is seen in men aged 40 to 44 years of age. Men commit suicide at three times the rate of women.

With Christmas coming up this week, it is unlikely there will be any reduction in the numbers, if anything this festive time can exacerbate feelings of loneliness and helplessness that contribute to suicide.

Around 12 men per day are killing themselves. Why is this happening? Is there any way forward?


It’s good to talk

One of the main reasons for the high suicide rate is that on the whole, men just don’t talk about their emotions – certainly not to other men. That means problems are bottled up. Problems bugging men go unresolved. The pressure cooker builds and in the most extreme cases results in suicide. Even if it doesn’t result in that awful, fatal outcome, there are likely to be other negative side effects – isolation, loneliness, depression, suicidal thoughts, domestic violence, sleeplessness, inability to concentrate and focus, drinking, smoking or drug taking to cope with the pressure. This is all avoidable.

As Gregor Henderson, National Lead for Wellbeing and Mental Health at Public Health England, puts it:”Men develop maladaptive coping strategies  such as booze, food etc… all the bad things for us. Talking is the solution. Unfortunately, according to research by the Movember Foundation, only 11% of men aged 22-50 have a friend they can contact in a crisis.”

That’s truly shocking and goes someway to explaining why there has been and continues to be a male suicide crisis.

Writer and Performer, Shane Solanki mentioned that, in his experience, when a boy grows up with the typical father (or worse, no father around) who doesn’t talk to them about personal and emotionally driven matters, boys and men typically don’t develop the language of emotion and are somewhat repressed when it comes to emotional matters.

Poorna Bell, Executive Editor and Global Lifestyle Head of The Huffington Post UK, lost her husband Rob Bell to suicide on 28th May 2015. He suffered from severe mental health issues for many years. He had severe, clinical depression. “He never had to the tools from when he was a young boy to talk about his issues. Severe depression is a chronic illness. The problem with mental health issues is that we don’t take them seriously enough. We feel shame and don’t talk about it.”

That applies to both the person suffering and the family of the person. Poorna felt ashamed about this and tried to keep it to herself. Keep it in the family. Yet it if it was a physical illness such as cancer she and many other people would have far fewer qualms and felt less shame about talking about it. “Boys are told never to cry or talk about their feelings. They have to. We must talk about it,” said Poorna. “People are afraid of what people will think about them. See a Therapist. They’re great to see.”

Laughter is the best medicine

Gregor said, “For some people laugher can be a great healer. This is a topic laden down with doom and gloom, but we can laugh about it. There has been a movement in the comedy world giving attention to this.  Comedy at its best gives you an insight into the human condition.”

This includes Ruby Wax with her ‘Mindfulness’ and mental health tours to John Ryan and others doing comedy focused on addressing mental health issues.

That reminds me of the joke about how men never ask for directions when lost, preferring to keep driving for ages in the hope they’ll get to their destination. Why do men do this? We see asking for help as an admission of weakness, whereas really if they approached it from a different angle of asking for help as a sign of them looking to take control of a situation it’s far healthier, not to mention saving on petrol and time!

Our mental and physical health are part of who we are. We need to stop separating them otherwise we’ll be no further forward in 30 years time. Poorna agreed saying, “If someone was terminally ill with a physical illness they would have been treated far better.”

TV Doctor Dr Christian Jessen commented, “the problem with mental illness is that if you have it you’re likely to be reluctant to acknowledge or admit you have a problem.”

The high level of male suicides is a national crisis. It’s one we need to talk about. Men, women, the government needs to address this urgently. Men need to talk to one another. We all need to talk to each other.

© Tiemo Talk of the Town

Getting help

If you’re reading this because you’re having suicidal thoughts, try to ask someone for help. It may be difficult at this time, but it’s important to know you’re not beyond help and you’re not alone.

Talking to someone can help you see beyond feelings of loneliness or despair and help you realise there are options.

There are people who want to talk to you and help. Try talking to a family member or friend about how you’re feeling.

There are several telephone helplines you can call at any time of the day or night. You can speak to someone who understands how you’re feeling and can help you through the immediate crisis.

Source: NHS


  1. NHS suicide helplines
  2. CALM suicide report
  3. Are men in crisis? Debate and book launch – 24th  September 2015
  4. Austerity – A rising factor behind the suicide crisis – Guardian reports and articles 2015
  5. The Trouble with Men III  review – 9th March 2015.
  6. Sane New World – Why we need to wake up and smell the coffee – Ruby Wax review –  3rd April 2014
  7. BAM Festival 2014 – review – 15th March 2014
  8. Should there be a place for men’s rights on the political agenda? article – 18th November 2012
  9. Tiemo Entertainments Funny Ha Ha Amazon Store

If you attended the show we’d love to read your comments. They can be simply posted via the comments section below. These may be posted anonymously if you wish.

This entry was posted in Being a Man Festival 2015, Debates, Lectures and Talks and tagged , , , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink.

6 Responses to Its’ good to talk – Tackling the male suicide crisis

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  3. Saffron Blue says:

    Male role models

    If you come from a single parent family where the father figure is absent this might make it difficult for young men but an uncle, other relatives could act as a father figure that young men with mental, emotional, financial and other challenges can talk to or confide in.

    On the other hand the father can be the root of the problem, a disciplinarian, religious fanatic, fire and brimstone. For example Marvin Gaye tried to establish a father/son relationship with his religious father who classified his music as the “devil’s music.” He tried all his life to win over his father, who eventually ended up shooting him. Michael Jackson is another celebrity who had problems of a similar nature with his father.

    The balance of power has changed in the home and the workplace. There have been men who have murdered their children and committed suicide over custody issues and fear of losing their children. On the other hand redundancy, not being the breadwinner and fear of being labelled a “scrounger” has had the same results.

    Professor Green the popstar whose father committed suicide has done a BBC documentary on depression and the issue of suicide.

    June Sarpong, the journalist brother, a successful celebrity in LA, committed suicide. Also Robin Williams “Mrs Doubtfire recently. Another celebrity, Justin Fashanu, footballer, many years ago. Was the fact that he was brought up in care anything to do with it? Or was it his sexuality, the fact that he was a gay footballer?

    The image of masculinity has been changing over the decades, from the Hippies to John Lennon, make love not war. From the Billy Elliot’s.

    Breaking with masculine working class stereotypes to gay marriages and LGBT communities.

    The role of men as the breadwinner to househusbands

    Stereotypes and traditional beliefs are deep rooted and men may feel less masculine and insecure if they are unable to perform their role.

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