BreatheUni: The Numbers Behind the Men’s Suicide Crisis

By Jeremy L., MSc Psychology Student and Volunteer


In England, around one in eight men has a common mental health problem such as depression, anxiety, panic disorder, or obsessive compulsive disorder (OCD). However this is not the complete story as many more conditions go undiagnosed. This is due to the stigma and toxic stereotypes around men and them talking about their mental health. Society has expectations that men should maintain positions of strength physically, socio-economically and mentally. Therefore acknowledging anything that compromises this image is a threat to a man’s identity, both to the man himself and his peers. This makes it significantly less likely that men will get the help they need, and more likely that they show signs of male depression, irritability, sudden anger, increased loss of control, risk-taking, and aggression. This leads to statistics such as:

  • Men are more likely to be compulsorily detained (sectioned) for treatment than women
  • Men are 1.5 more likely to be victims of violent crime than women
  • Men making up the vast majority of the prison population
  • 75% of adults who go missing are men
  • 87% of rough sleepers are men

Ultimately this is resulting in disproportionately high rates of suicide in men. In 2017, 75% of the 6000 suicides recorded in Great Britain were men, making it the largest cause of death for men under 50. This is also only part of the story as many deaths are misrepresented as accidents (e.g. car crashes, an overdose). These rates are particularly damning in minority communities including gay men, war veterans, men from BAME backgrounds, and those with low incomes. This is in part due to increased risk of socioeconomic hardship, unemployment, relationship breakdowns, and lack of social support.

Typically on university campuses, there are very few groups focused on men’s issues and the advancement of men’s mental health. In fact, incipient men’s issues groups have been refused accreditation by student unions, and some have even been protested with violence. If you’re concerned about a male friend or relative, it’s important to let them know you’re there to listen to them without judgement; a text message or a phone call could make a big difference.

You might even help them make the first step in calling their GP; currently only 36% of referrals to NHS talking therapies are for men. Research suggests men would be more likely to get help if it was easily accessible, for example with local support groups, preferably ones that were specifically for men.

Shawmind offers just this with ManCave a safe space to open up and talk about mental health and wellbeing. Held every month, ManCave features mental health speakers, wellbeing experts, and men with lived experiences discussing and exploring mental health and wellbeing. Be sure to join us this evening at 5:30 for our ManCave session and keep a look out for future sessions!

Feel like learning a bit more about other people’s experiences and get a chance to share your own? Come join us at 7pm on Thursday 25th of March at our BreatheUni café. And follow us on Instagram @breathe_uni!