16 Mar 2017

UK House Of Commons Health Committee Report On Suicide Prevention

By Mike Buchanan: Suicide is the leading cause of death for men under 50. It accounts for 26% of the deaths of men aged 20-34, 13% of the deaths of men 35-49. The male:female suicide rate differential has increased from 1.7:1 to over 3.5:1 over the past 35 years, mainly the consequence of a large decline in female suicides. About 78% of suicide victims today are male, 22% female.
We commented on the government’s inaction on male suicide prevention in our 2015 general election manifesto (pp.46-8).
The House of Commons Health Committee (seven of the ten MPs on the committee are female, including the chairperson) recently held an inquiry into the issue of suicide prevention. Our written submission to the inquiry (September 2016) can be accessed here. I asked to give oral evidence to the committee, but my request was denied. We had pointed in our written submission to the state being the key driver of male suicide, through its actions and inactions in 11 areas.
The embargo on publication of the House of Commons Health Committee’s final report on suicide prevention has just been lifted, and the report is here. As anticipated, it barely recognizes that most (almost four in five) suicide victims in the UK today are men.
Remarkably – but predictably – the report does not provide data to demonstrate the highly gendered nature of suicide, as revealed by official statistics. When male suicide is referred to, an element of victim shaming is usually included.
Section 3 of the report (pp.14-22) is titled, ‘Services to support people vulnerable to suicide’. If the MPs had an ounce of humanity towards men, they’d be one of the categories of vulnerable people, as they constitute 78% of victims. There is no such category – no recognition of men as a group being particularly vulnerable to suicide.
Among the material of interest to followers of this blog will be paragraphs 53-6 (p.16) and paragraphs 80-4 (pp.21,22). From paragraph 53, some victim shaming:
We noted the importance of tackling the stigma that persists in talking about emotional health (particularly for men)…
In plain English, ‘men should be more like women, and talk about their problems’. There is no recognition in the report that men are killing themselves due to reactive depression resulting from overwhelming life events, mainly driven by the state’s actions and inactions, a matter I explored in an article in the International Business Times two years ago to the day.
Paragraphs 80-6 are the contents of a section, ‘Other at risk groups’. In paragraph 80 the committee ‘notes with concern the levels of perinatal suicide and the rising levels of suicides in prisons’. Women constitute 100% of the first cohort, men 95% of those serving custodial sentences, and men account for 90% of suicides in prison. Perinatal suicide is then described as ‘a matter of grave concern’, which the latter clearly isn’t, by default.
The gendered nature of prison suicides is not mentioned once in the four paragraphs, although mention is made of the fact that suicide rates in prison are 8.6 times higher than in the general population.

[Note: Anyone with suicidal inclinations is strongly advised to seek help, perhaps by calling the Samaritans. Their website is here, phone 08457 909090 (Republic of Ireland – 116 123), email jo@samaritans.org.]


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