In the U.K., there is a serious epidemic going undetected. It has raged on unabated and nobody seems to notice. Every year there are thousands of suicides, but the reoccurring trend is that the vast majority of these suicides are committed by men.
In 2014, there were 6,122 suicides in the United Kingdom; 4,630 were committed by men. That’s approximately 76% of all suicides in the U.K. being carried out by men.
It is evident that there is an underlying issue here, but it is even more evident that the situation isn’t getting any better. The reasons behind people committing suicide varies, but with men there is always a common denominator. Gender roles and purported stereotypes play a large part.
Society has depicted men as impassive and herculean, if they have a problem they should just “man up” and sort it out. What does “man up” even mean? Are men not supposed to cry like everyone else? Crying or expressing some form of anguish does not make you any less of a man. The society in which men live in has made it difficult for them to open up about their problems without feeling shame, or feel as if they are burdening others with their grief.
This archetype has had the most effect on younger men, as it accounted for 24% of all deaths in 2013 for men aged between 20-34 in England and Wales. This ongoing plight isn’t receiving enough attention, both publicly in the media and within smaller communities.
Attributing the stigma of masculinity is only one explanation of why the suicide rates amongst men in the U.K. is so high. Admittedly, the NHS is understaffed right now, we have more patients than we have doctors. As a result, the NHS is made to channel its efforts into the areas where it is needed most, leaving a void in the more subtle areas, such as counseling.
More often than not, the onset of depression is a precedent for suicide. Men who visit their general physician are prescribed antidepressants and told to “go home,” as their local practitioner will monitor their progress over the coming weeks. My only question is whether antidepressants magically erase the pain that comes with the loss of your loved one, or the lingering grief of a traumatic childhood experience.
The fact of the matter is that pills can only fix the chemical imbalance in men’s brains, but they can’t remove the pain that resides in their hearts. Men need to be made more comfortable with speaking about their problems and feelings, and counseling needs to be made more readily available. There needs to be a paramount societal shift, otherwise this epidemic will continue to claim the lives of men across the U.K.
This has gone on long enough.