15th June 2017
It’s Men’s Health Week (12th – 18th of June) and we’re looking at men’s mental health. There’s still a gender divide when it comes to mental health, with men two and half times more likely than woman to die by suicide.
Liam Yule is Suicide Prevention Development Manager at SAMH. He thinks the higher suicide rate in men is about the way we communicate.
“Females tend to be better at speaking to their peers when things aren’t going well; whereas males feel they need to live up to the macho image that ‘guys don’t cry’. That means that men often don’t talk about their problems and instead bottle them up.
“Talking about suicide is one of the most effective ways to reduce the risk. It’s hard though. Even though I work in suicide prevention, if someone asks me how I’m feeling, generally my answer will be ‘fine’ or ‘okay’ – regardless of how I’m feeling. It takes a lot to try to fight that urge and be honest with my peers if I’m having a bad time.”
We’ve made progress in Scotland, with the suicide rate in 2015 the lowest it’s been since 1977; but it’s still the highest national rate in the UK, and there’s lot more to be done.
“Although the rate is reducing, there were 672 suicides in Scotland in 2015, and each one of those is still a person who took their own life. We can’t get complacent.
“We need to make training a community available resource and build on the commitments in the Scottish Government’s Mental Health Strategy by offering a caring and compassionate response to those in distress.”
Young males are one of the highest risk groups for suicide. Last month SAMH launched a new campaign, Going To Be, which is all about children and young people’s mental health. We want young people to grow up with a good understanding of mental health so that they can recognise the signs, ask for help, and, importantly, get that help when they need it.
“When I was in school there was next to no talk about mental health – and when there was, it tended to be very negative. I think we have seen stigma reduce, and my hope is that this younger generation can speak more freely about their mental health and wellbeing than past generations.
“We work with schools, colleges and universities throughout Scotland, and there is some great work going on. In fact, this weekend I’m speaking at a ‘teachmeet' with teachers from Angus, discussing mental health, self harm and suicide. And next week we’re delivering ASIST (Applied Suicide Intervention Skills Training) to staff at the University of Stirling.
“But the picture is inconsistent and work is often isolated – we need national action to ensure that mental health is given the same parity as physical health throughout education.
“We need to ensure that teachers are given the skills to have these conversations, so that they feel equipped and comfortable discussing mental health with their students. Encouraging young people to talk about their mental health is the only way we can improve this; but it means that as the current generation of adults we need to ensure that we aren’t putting up barriers to prevent these discussions.”
Whatever the age, talking saves lives, says Liam.
“If you’re worried about a man (or woman) in your life, ignore the myths and start a conversation. We have suicide prevention publications on our website, and a ‘How to ask’ card for guidance.
“If you really don’t feel that this is a conversation you can have, try to find support that can help. Above all else, if someone tells you they are suicidal don’t minimise or ignore it – even if the reason seems trivial to you, remember that it’s not the reason itself, it’s how it makes the individual feel.
“Remember that suicide can affect anyone. I always trust my gut feeling – if I think suicide might be an option, I ask about it."
Find out more about suicide prevention at https://www.samh.org.uk/about-mental-health/mental-health-problems/suicide