February 24, 2014
Alarming Increase In UK Male Suicides
One person every two hours takes their own life in the UK. Suicide rates can tell us a lot about our societies and are often quoted by the media when comparing the quality of life in different countries. If this is the case, the UK has witnessed a national tragedy and seems to be doing little about it. Suicide numbers are somehow seen as an indicator of general well-being for a nation as a whole. Any rise in those rates is therefore seen as an important factor in assessing how a country’s health and economic development are benefiting the population. These figures are not just numbers; every single one reflects a personal and social tragedy. With all that in mind, then newly released statistics for suicide rates in the United make grim reading indeed. At first glance, a report by the Office for National Statistics for 2012 shows encouraging signs as there were 64 fewer suicides in 2012 compared to 2011. However, there was a significant increase in 2011 over the previous year. The really worrying trend though is a massive increase in the proportion of male suicides.
Men in the UK are now 3.5 times more likely to kill themselves than women. This is the greatest ratio ever recorded since data was first collected in this form over 30 years ago when the ratio was 1:9. The trends in suicide rates for men and women reveal in stark numbers a changing society. Back in 1981, when the first records began, 2,466 women committed suicide. That’s a rate of 10.4 deaths per 100,000 population. In 2012, there were 1,391 female suicides at a rate of 5.2. This is a very welcome fall of 44 percent.
Figures for men tell a totally different story. In 1981, 4,129 men committed suicide and the rate was 19.8 per 100,000. But in 2012 the figures were 4,590 and 18.2; the actual number of deaths had gone up and the rate had dropped only slightly. In spite of three decades of trying to tackle the problem, and some success in reducing female suicides, these figures should be a matter of national alarm. The worst affected group is the 40-44 year old male. Another high risk factor is socio-economic status, with those at the bottom of the ladder far more prone to take their own lives. In fact, since 2007 the suicide rate has generally increased in approximate proportion to the worsening economic climate. The unemployed are 2 to 3 times more likely to commit suicide than those in work. The recession really has claimed too many lives. Various attempts have been made to explain the situation. Mental health experts and charities like the Samaritans have postulated that men are victims of their own perceived masculinity, feeling an immense sense of failure if they don’t live up to their expectations of success in work or relationships. They are then more prone to turn to drink or drugs. They have far less confidence and belief in therapy and counseling than women and therefore usually only seek help, if at all, when in a state of crisis.
It seems obvious that there is an urgent need to address this problem with a clearly defined strategy aimed at the determining the causes of the problem and implementing a concerted programmer aimed at getting help to those who need it most before it is too late and before too many lives are lost. Instead, as yet, there is only a deafening silence.
Image Credit: Thinkstock