The Male Suicide Epidemic

One could assume the act of suicide does not discriminate. That all are affected equally – male or female. However, this assumption could not be more wrong…

The statistics associated with male suicide are staggering.

In 2018, figures from the British Office for National Statistics confirmed 6,507 suicides – a 12% increase from the previous years which totalled 5,812 suicides. Three-quarters of these suicides were committed by males.

The number of male suicide victims aged between 20-24 has risen by 30% – in 2017, there were a confirmed 279 deaths and in 2018 that number increased to 363. Men aged between 40-44 have the overall highest suicide rate in the UK.

The figures regarding male suicide rates in America does not fair any better. The Centres for Disease Control recorded by 47,173 suicides in 2017. 70% of these deaths were males. Middle-aged white males also have the highest suicide rate in the US.

In 2015, the World Health Organization estimated 793,000 suicides worldwide. Most victims were men.

iTHINK examines the male suicide epidemic and how it can be prevented.

How Has This Epidemic Come About?


Society & Expectations

Masculinity – the way men are brought up to behave and the roles, attributes and behaviours that society expects of them – contributes to suicide in men.

It is a common belief that woman are able to express their emotions far more easily than men. This is arguably rooted in societies expectations of men, who are required to stifle their emotions – look at the common phrases ‘man up’ and ‘boys don’t cry’ as examples.

As said by Colman O’Driscoll, the former executive director of operations and development at Lifeline (an Australian charity which provides 24/7 crisis support and suicide prevention services),

“We condition boys from a very young age to not express emotion, because to express emotion is to be ‘weak’.”

Instead of expressing emotion (which historical has been perceived as weakness), men suffer in silence – leading to mental health issues and (in extreme / frequently cases) suicide.


When falling into a depression, men are far more likely to isolate themselves from friends and family.

Men will leave themselves alone with their dark thoughts, whereas women are far more likely to share what’s on their mind – leading to dangerous mental health problems for the former.

Unwillingness to Seek Medical Help

A UK British Medical Journal study has found mental care consultation rates were 32% lower in men when compared to women. In addition to this, consultation rates for depression and antidepressant prescriptions was 8% lower in males.

It is estimated that men are far more likely to either ignore the issue or self medicate with drugs and alcohol – which has the potential to lead to dependency, despondency, and death from suicide.

Jill Harkavy-Friedman, an Associate Professor of Clinical Psychology at Columbia University, has stated on the issue of men neglecting medical care,

It’s not that men don’t have the same issues as women – but they’re a little less likely to know they have whatever stresses or mental health conditions that are putting them at greater risk for suicide.

How Do We Combat The Suicide Epidemic?

[We must] get men to talk about the way that they’re feeling, to get men to open up.

The only way to combat this epidemic is by talking about it. The more men talk about their struggles with mental health, the less likely they are to take their own lives.

Encouragement to communicate is key. If you know someone you suspect is struggling – discuss the issue with them. Do not let it go unnoticed, male or female.

The Warning Signs of Suicide

There are many warning signs individuals should be aware of if concerned for a family member or friend. The traditional warning signs which indicate suicidal tendencies are…

  • Prior attempts on their lives
  • Mental health problems
  • Problems within relationships
  • Isolation
  • Prior exposure to bullying / physical / sexual abuse
  • Substance abuse
  • Developing illnesses or disabilities
  • Those with easy access to weapons or medication
  • Grief

If you are suffering from suicidal thoughts or know anyone who is, then remember you don’t have to deal with it alone.

Charities such as CALM and Movember offer support and resources and advice regarding suicide. However, if you feel your life is at risk call 999 immediately.