Why are male suicide rates so high? Lee Suckling believes society’s pressure on men to conform to narrow ideal is not helping.
There’s no such thing as male privilege when it comes to suicide.
International statistics confirm we’re three times more likely than women to take our own lives. For guys under 45, it’s the primary cause of death.
Though women are worse off in many ways in society, this is one issue that disproportionally affects men.
In New Zealand, it’s arguably our “harden up” rugby-fuelled culture that forces guys to keep their feelings inside and not seek help when they’re having suicidal thoughts.
Overseas, this mentality doesn’t exist to the same extent (though there are exceptions, eg Australia).
However, suicide is still more common among men, all over the world. What’s going on? Health professionals, politicians and media constantly talk of the unmet need in terms of this problem (and plans to alleviate the problem), yet the suicide stats don’t go down.
Across Western society it seems all people – not just males – are only deserving of help when they’re already way down the track.
Where are the preventative services? More importantly, why aren’t those most vocal in society pushing to change the burdens that men are faced with?
In addition to talking about more funding for mental health care – more providers and better support for people to manage life’s pressures – why aren’t we also stepping back to figure out how we can relieve those pressures in the first place?
Male privilege extends to most facets of life. Men get paid more, they enjoy unearned advantages and in many parts of society they’re given greater status. It’s also assumed that they aren’t judged as harshly as women.
I disagree on that last point. While we’re not fat-shamed, age-shamed, slut-shamed or mum-shamed, we are bloke-shamed.
Men are forced to self-censor in order to conform to an ideal that discourages outward expressions of sadness, struggle or weakness.
Despite the leaps we make in gender equality, men remain looked down on when they’re not physically, emotionally and financially superior beings.
In New Zealand it’s queer, Maori and Pacific men that are most affected by these expectations (and subsequently shamed for non-conformity).
In fact, the suicide rate for Maori men is one of the highest: they are 1.4 times more likely to take their own lives than non-Maori men.
We have serious problems around the male cultural identity. The standards placed upon us by our peers (and not just male peers) are stifling and dangerous.
Everywhere from the schoolyard to the 24/7 multiple-channel offerings of TV sports, we men are told who to be and there’s little space for individuality within that.
This is something we all must figure out how to stop.