The Phenomenon of Suicide
Suicide is one of the last big taboos’ in modern day society; a phenomenon that affects so many people in our communities in so many ways and yet has not been tackled within our communities.
In Britain, each year, more than 6000 people kill themselves; that’s 4000 more deaths per year than occur on all our roads. Over 75% of all suicides completed are by men.
It has been identified that there are key identifiable factors that increase the likelihood of suicidal ideation and behaviour. Such factors that are associated with suicide include social factors, cultural factors, economic crisis, work stresses, mental health difficulties, family issues, substance misuse, sexual orientation, individual crisis, bullying and more recently, the recognition of the conflict between more traditional gender identities and modern society.
Where a multiple of these factors is applicable to an individual, there is a heightened level of risk in respect of that individual and their propensity for considering suicide as a realistic option.
“there are direct links between mental ill health and social factors such as unemployment and debt. Both are risk factors for suicide. Previous periods of high unemployment and/or severe economic problems have been accompanied by increased incidence of mental ill health and higher suicide rates.”
Identity and Suicide
According to the Samaritans many men compare themselves against a masculine ‘gold standard’ which prizes power, control and invincibility. Having a job and providing for the family is central to this, especially for working class men and when this gold standard is no longer deemed to be being met such men may feel a sense of defeat and/or shame leading to contemplation of suicide. This ideal man being a socially constructed aspect of hegemonic masculinity, also means that emotional withdrawal and rigidity – a reduced likelihood of seeking help – may influence gender differences in suicidal behaviours.
Studies have shown that men are less likely than women to consult for most conditions, and for mental health and emotional problems specifically. The reasons for this could be argued to involve the way in which norms of masculinity are constructed to include a denial of pain, emotional sensitivity and anxiety. Asking for help, even in the face of possible suicide, may be viewed by many men as feminine behaviour, and if men are to live up to expectations of strength and independence, they are required to sort out their mental and physical problems on their own.
For many men, not coping is seen as an indicator of weakness and depression is a mental illness that for many is still viewed as inconsistent with a masculine identity. Studies have demonstrated that men’s response to depression often involves social withdrawal (including hiding symptoms from others), unwillingness to consult healthcare professionals, and a denial of symptoms.
Suicide and Criminal Justice
Prison suicides in England and Wales have risen to the highest level for seven years with 82 prisoners taking their own lives last year, according to new figures.
Historically, preventing suicides while offenders are in prison has been a much bigger priority than preventing them once prisoners get out. But a new studies looking into prisoner suicides once they’re released has found that the risk of suicide for male offenders is eight times the national average, with over 25 percent of those suicides occurring in the first four weeks of their release.
According to this study, those at most risk are so-called ‘revolvers’ or ‘churners’ – frequently in and out of prison. Their lives revolve between chaotic existences in the community and spells in custody. As such, often they are not under the supervision of probation services, neither do they have meaningful contact with primary care or specialist mental health services.
In respect of the original opportunity to develop a programme to support men who were at risk of suicide, Forward for Life and Common Unity viewed the original Manmade Programme (as it came to be known) as a way to do things a little differently from the traditional norm. The programme proposed was peer support based in approach whilst utilising the Five Ways to Well-Being framework in a format that was able to be engaged with fully by the ‘target audience’ of ‘vulnerable’ men.
The Five Ways to WellBeing was seen as key in ensuring the greatest impact upon the wellbeing of participants as mental health needs and vulnerabilities to suicidal ideation are best addressed via a holistic approach and not through solely concentrating efforts on risk reduction often associated with mental health problems.
We believe that individuals who have thoughts of suicide must have their needs addressed including providing individuals with the necessary internal resilience tools, self-care skills, personal sense of the self and knowledge of services that engender opportunities for satisfactory living.
ManMade therefore is very much an upstream approach – it doesn’t start with identification of illness and potential cure, it doesn’t look to come into play at the point of addressing the devastation caused by suicidal behaviour – what it does is recognise that through an emphasis on education, promotion, prevention and protection the number of vulnerable people coming to the point of contemplating suicide as the only rational option available is reduced.
Aspirations in respect of a self-determined quality of life is very much on the agenda with ManMade members. The approach supports men to identify and adopt new approaches that enables them to better deal with as well as more readily accept and understand both internal and external challenges. Focus is on the origins of good health and not the causes of disease. A Salutogenic Approach.
MANMADE CRIMINAL JUSTICE PROPOSAL