Robin Williams tragic suicide has prompted me to look at suicide rates. In the UK , improvements in psychiatric care and emergency medicine have led to a reduction in the suicide rate over the past 30 years. But these improvements have only been felt by women. For men, the suicide rate has actually got worse.
- Female Suicides
- in 1981 = 2,466
- in 2012 = 1391 – a welcome decrease of 44%
- Male Suicides:
- in 1982 = 4,129
- in 2012 = 4,590 – an terrifying increase of 11%
If the improvements made in society do work (as shown by the women’s decline in suicides) why are they not working for men?
Is it our cultural stereotypes that prevent men from seeking help? Phrases like “man up” , “grow some balls”, “stop being such a girl” reinforce the stereotype that men must be strong and should not show any sign of weakness or need for help. Indeed, when men are sensitive it’s often called “getting in touch with their feminine side”.
And for women , the cultural norm is the reverse; women are allowed, often expected, to be sensitive and it is more socially acceptable for them to ask for help.
Are men their own worst enemy when it comes to asking for help? Is it their inability to “get in touch with their feminine side” that prevents them from getting the help they need?