Facts about male suicide

How much do you know about male suicide?

What is the definition of suicide?

Black and white image showing shadow of a man holding a noose that's hanging down - male suicide?
Male suicide — Istock photos

It’s Men’s Mental Health week 15th – 21st June 2020 and a timely reminder to repost this article, Facts about male suicide.

Trigger warning; the topics covered in this article may trigger emotional responses and you may wish to stop reading now.

The term suicide describes the intentional act of taking one’s own life. In this article, we’re talking about suicide in the conventional sense, where someone acts upon self-destructive thoughts and feelings.

The Office for National Statistics (ONS) definition is: Suicide includes all deaths from intentional self-harm for persons aged 10 and over. Suicide also describes deaths caused by injury or poisoning, where the intent was undetermined for those aged 15 and over.

UK statistics for male suicide

The incidence of completed suicide is vastly higher among males than females among all age groups in most of the world. As of 2015, almost two-thirds of worldwide suicides (representing about 1.5% of all deaths) are committed by men. The following figures come from ONS

  • In 2018, there were 6,507 suicides registered in the UK, an age-standardised rate of 11.2 deaths per 100,000 population
  • Three-quarters of registered deaths in 2018 were among men (4,903 deaths)
  • The UK male suicide rate of 17.2 deaths per 100,000 represents a significant increase from the rate in 2017
  • Males aged 45 to 49 years had the highest age-specific suicide rate (27.1 deaths per 100,000 males); for females, the age group with the highest rate was also 45 to 49 years, at 9.2 deaths per 100,000
  • As seen in previous years, the most common method of suicide in the UK was hanging, accounting for 59.4% of all suicides among males

What are the risk factors for attempting suicide?

Black and white image of man with palms flat against the wall, looking downwards. Is he contemplating suicide
Risk factors for suicide —Source unknown
  1. Mental health disorders including depression, bipolar disorder, schizophrenia, personality disorders, anxiety disorders, substance abuse including alcoholism and the use of benzodiazepines.
  2. Those who have previously attempted suicide are at higher risk for future attempts.
  3. Having a family history of suicide or impulsive behaviour is also believed to increase risk of suicidality.
  4. Some suicides are impulsive acts due to stress i.e. financial difficulties, relationship problems such as breakups, or bullying.
  5. When there’s an economic downturn, resulting in increased unemployment, for example, there tends to be an associated increase in suicide – typically 18-24 months after the downturn, BBC. One 2015 study found that for every 1% increase in unemployment there is a 0.79% increase in the suicide rate, NCBI.
  6. Older men are at increased risk for suicide, and they complete suicide at a higher rate than any other age group. They’re especially at risk because they don’t usually seek counselling for depression or other mental illnesses, Psychcom.
  7. Other risk factors can include:
  • Access to firearms
  • Isolation from others
  • History of physical or sexual abuse
  • Having a terminal or chronic illness
  • People can become suicidal when they feel overwhelmed by life’s challenges, lack hope for the future, and they see no other way out

What symptoms might you notice?

Black and white image man who looks like he's about to jump off a bridge
Jumping from a bridge

The obvious sign of someone who’s considering suicide would be talking about it, saying things like “I’m going to kill myself”, “I wish I could jump in front of a train” or “I feel like jumping off that bridge”. However, there are many other signs that can indicate risk and the more there are, the higher the risk for suicide:

  • being depressed, sad and low
  • not taking interest in usual hobbies
  • increased anger, agitation, anxiety, shame, guilt or humiliation
  • isolating self from others, not taking calls or answering the door
  • stockpiling pills or sourcing a weapon
  • driving recklessly
  • increased aggression, agitation
  • not communicating with friends or family in usual way
  • giving away possessions or writing a will
  • increased drug and alcohol use
  • searching out suicide information on the internet
  • wishing you didn’t exist or that you’ve never been born
  • feeling like a burden to everyone, that there’s no purpose to life and feeling hopeless or worthless

The above list is not exhaustive and you may have other symptoms. If you’re experiencing the above symptoms regularly, please speak to your GP or another mental health professional. If you’re reluctant to seek treatment, talk to someone you trust, like a loved one, a friend or faith leader.

Last but not least

Depressed male — Image by Holger Langmaier at pixabay.com

Suicide is a hugely sensitive issue and the very nature of a death by suicide means we can’t fully know the reasons behind it. And talking about it can be really scary but the more open we are, the more likely we are in helping someone seek the support they need.

Some people think that if you ask someone if they’re having suicidal thoughts, you’ll put the idea in their head. This isn’t true and if you suspect that someone is considering suicide, it’s really important that you do ask them directly “Are you thinking about suicide?” Don’t be afraid to do this, it will actually decrease their risk because someone is willing to talk about it. If they do tell you that they’re having thoughts of suicide, offer to stay with them and to listen. If they have the method and means to kill themselves, do not leave them alone and let them know you need to contact someone of their choice. But do not place yourself at risk. Encourage them to talk and to seek urgent professional support, helping them find it if necessary.

Over to you

Clipart.com

As with my last post, for those of you who are not mental health professionals, did you learn anything new? For those of you ‘in the know’, have I missed something/anything? I’m looking forward to your comments, suggestions or questions.

In the meantime, you might find the following articles useful:

  • What you must know about depression here.
  • Useful tool for self assessment of depression here.
  • 19 free mental health apps just for you here.
  • ITV’s This morning programme recently put together this useful list of helplines where you can find more information and advice:

NHS Choices – Suicide

Suicide

Comprehensive help and information from NHS Choices with links to external websites.

The Samaritans

Tel: 116 123

samaritans.org

You can cope

Samaritans is available round the clock, every single day of the year. We provide a safe place for anyone struggling to cope, whoever they are, however they feel, whatever life has done to them. Please call 116 123 email jo@samaritans.org, or visit www.samaritans.org to find details of the nearest branch.

Shout

Text Shout to 85258

giveusashout.org

Shout is the UK’s first free 24/7 text service for anyone in crisis anytime, anywhere. It’s a place to go if you’re struggling to cope and you need immediate help.

Mind

MindInfoline: 0300 123 3393

mind.org.uk

Suicidal feelings

Elefriends online support community

Mind helps people take control of their mental health. We do this by providing high-quality information and advice, and campaigning to promote and protect good mental health for everyone.

CALM (Campaign Against Living Miserably)

Helpline: 0800 58 58 58

thecalmzone.net

The Campaign Against Living Miserably (CALM) works to prevent male suicide and offers support services for any man who is struggling or in crisis. CALM’s helpline 0800 58 58 58 and web-chat are for men in the UK who need to talk or find information and support. The services are open 5pm–midnight daily and are free, anonymous and confidential. For access or to find more information visit thecalmzone.net

ChildLine

Helpline: 0800 11 11

childline.org.uk

Coping with suicidal feelings

ChildLine is a counselling service for children and young people. You can contact ChildLine in these ways: You can phone on 0800 1111, send us an email, have a 1-2-1 chat with us, send a message to Ask Sam and you can post messages to the ChildLine message boards.

YoungMinds

Helpline: 0808 802 5544

youngminds.org.uk

Suicidal feelings

Parents’ Information Service gives advice to parents or carers who may be concerned about the mental health or emotional well being of a child or young person.

The Mix

Helpline: 0808 808 4994

themix.org.uk

Suicide

Life’s tough, we know that. It can throw a lot your way and make it hard to know what the hell to do with it all. So, welcome to The Mix. Whether you’re 13, 25, or any age in between, we’re here to take on the embarrassing problems, weird questions, and please-don’t-make-me-say-it-out-loud thoughts you have. We give you the information and support you need to deal with it all.

Students Against Depression

Suicide and self harm

Surviving suicidal thoughts

Students Against Depression is a website offering advice, information, guidance and resources to those affected by low mood, depression and suicidal thinking. Alongside clinically-validated information and resources it presents the experiences, strategies and advice of students themselves – after all, who are better placed to speak to their peers about how depression can be overcome.

Maytree

Tel: 020 7263 7070

maytree.org.uk

At Maytree, we provide people in the midst of a suicidal crisis with the opportunity for rest and reflection, and give them the opportunity to stay in a calm, safe and relaxed environment. We can support four “guests” at a time. The service runs 24 hours a day, 365 days a year. Our warm and friendly volunteers and staff team spend up to 77 hours with each guest over their stay, giving them the opportunity to talk through their fears, thoughts and troubles.

Author: mentalhealth360.uk

Mum to two amazing sons. Following recovery from a lengthy psychotic episode, depression, anxiety and anorexia, I decided to train as a Mental Health Nurse and worked successfully in various settings before becoming a Ward Manager. I am a Mental Health First Aid Instructor and a Mental Health Awareness Trainer, Mental Health First Aid Youth and Mental Health Armed Forces Instructor. Just started my mental health from the other side blog.

25 thoughts on “Facts about male suicide”

  1. Good post but just to set your moral alarm bells going, there is a bigger question altogether – is suicide a bad thing? For me, the answer is “not always”. I do think that dignity is the major factor here, not simply life or death.

    I was interested to read that access to firearms is considered a risk factor. I mean, there are countries with guns, countries without, so presumably, this must be evidential. But that must also mean that in countries without guns, there must be people walking around who would otherwise be committing suicide, if only they had the means to do so.

    1. Love it, moral alarm bells 😉 I get your first paragraph – who are we to judge? as I don’t see it always a bad thing.

      Assisted suicde maintains a persons dignity and that’s probably how I’d do it, if I really needed to i.e. if my physical disorder got worse. We find that men mainly choose more ‘violent’ ways to end their life i,e, hanging, shooting etc, if they have the means, whereas women tend to take overdoeses. People will always find the means, guns or no guns and obviously the UK doesn’t have as much access to guns as they do in the States, for example. Thank you for making me think………..

      1. I was just thinking, the USA is the big “gun” example. Presumably suicide rates there are higher than in the UK? Presumably, somebody also has said “that’s because they have guns and we don’t”.

        It might be physical, as you say, but it could also be mental. After all, every suicide is ultimately someone believing that death is preferable to life, and that could be for any reason.

        I’d never really thought about the means. I suppose how failsafe the method is must come into it. My daughter tried (and failed with) pills. Her female schoolfriend tried (and succeeded) with hanging. I’m very fortunate – I’m an insulin-dependent diabetic so if ever I decide to check out, nobody will know the difference. But it is a subject we can look at rationally, to say a blanket “suicide is bad” is, in fact, the irrational response. As a society, I think we tend to do this.

      2. Gosh, I’m so sorry you went through all that with your daughter and her friend but I’m so glad to hear your daughter was unsuccessful. I hope she’s happy and well now.
        I know some people find the act abhorrent and selfish, but no one knows the pain (physical or emotional) of another. Caz x

      3. Oh yes we knew both camhs and Social Services very well! You make me think a lot on this subject, but it is really the subject of a post in itself, not just a comment on yours. But a lot of my followers are US so possibly not one for today :-).

  2. I feel like talking about it and having the possibility to open up about your thoughts can help. It is on the other hand not easy to find someone who you can talk about this topic. People can react a little shocked or panicked. Some years ago we lost a mutual friend to sc and as an outcome I feel I can talk to my friend about it. It is a topic that needs awareness because lives are lost.

    1. True, so many lives are lost and the pain they leave behind must be, well, I can’t even imagine. I’ve never experienced anyone so close to me dying by suicide. I witnessed many suicides while I was nursing and I’ll never forget any of them. Some of the ‘torture’ they went thro’ prior to killing themselves was just awful. And yes, it does need to be talked about. I’m glad you have at least one person to talk to. My partner will listen when I say “I can’t take any more.” I’m lucky, probably because of my job and the fact that mental illness runs in my family, there’s so many people I can talk to about suicidal thoughts and feelings. I know I’m very lucky in some ways. Thank you for commenting Kasha. Caz x

      1. It is a long, hard, exhausting and devestating way to go before you come to that conclusion and plan of action.
        I tried to open the debate at work about eutanasia for chronically ill people with no hope/possibility of improvement.
        Families of patients who went through it, can accept more and are sometimes the willing part to discuss something like euthanasia as a different answer to long-term suffering. But then again, it was all a bit difficult at work but some people were willing to think about the subject of long-term suffering and quality of life, what the core issue would be.
        People themselves are effected by sc but also friends, families, parents, sisters … For one of course bc of the loss of their loved one but also the desperation and questions that go along with it. It is a ‘difficult’ way to leave the world and that was something I wanted to discuss honestly and openly. When you talk seriously with people about their deathwish maybe less people would be driven to it. Or there would be other ways to go about it.
        I hope this makes sense bc it is such a delicate topic and I’m having difficulties to express myself without being too graphic.

  3. This article spoke so much truth. I have often thought of suicide over my years of suffering, This post layed out some definite signs and symptoms. This is extremely helpful to those around that want to help

  4. Thank you for sharing, I think that the push to open up a discussion surrounding suicide (which I might classify also as suicide prevention) is especially prevalent for men because of things like stigma and toxic masculinity. I also think that environment and culture play into the conversation as well – most of my research is surrounding the U.S., so seeing things from a UK perspective are also helpful because suicide prevention has to take cultural factors into account. I also don’t think it’s helpful to discuss suicide without providing resources and links to receive help, so thanks for doing that too! 👍

  5. Ah, glad you thought it was useful in some way Nathan. And yes, we need to be doing a lot more work around suicide and suicide prevention With the cultural side, it’s on, particularly in males. They also have to contend with racism and discrimination, social and economic inequalities, the criminal justice system, together with Mental health stigma.

    As if things weren’t bad enough in our world!

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