Tackling male mental health sooner will reduce suicide
Focusing on suicide can mean that earlier opportunities to intervene in men's mental distress are being missed. That was one of the messages that MHF policy officer David Wilkins delivered in a recent debate about men’s mental health at the King’s Fund.
The debate was organised by CALM and formed part of a conference hosted by Commissioning Support for London at which health commissioners considered the best way to prevent male suicide in the capital. Although the rate has fallen in recent years, suicide remains the most common cause of death for young men with men still three times more likely to take their own lives than women.
David drew on the MHF's recently published review of the key issues in male mental health, Untold Problems, to make the point that 'in many cases, suicide is actually the outcome of a complex web of experiences and circumstances, rather than a self-contained event'. In this sense says David, 'although each individual case is a tragedy, suicide can also be understood as the visible part of a hidden reservoir of emotional distress that may affect far more men than those who will take their own lives.'
David argued that the much higher rates of alcohol and drug dependence in men, and higher rates of various forms of anti-social behaviour could all be viewed as indicators of emotional distress in some men. 'Men who could benefit from psychological support will not always present through conventional diagnostic channnels,' David adds. 'Addressing some of that un-met need has the potential in the longer run also to help reduce the suicide rate.'
Other participants in the debate included the psychotherapist and broadcaster, Phillip Hodson, journalist Toby Young and CALM Chief Executive, Jane Powell.