The pattern has changed, perhaps another unwelcome side-effect of the recession, as now it’s middle-aged men aged between 35 and 54 who are more prone to sink into depression and despair.
And if you live in a deprived area or are in the lower socio-economic groups then the problem is even worse with ten times the risk of attempted suicides.
The Samaritans, who commissioned this research, think it’s due to men finding it harder to live up to expectations and getting depressed when they can’t be the provider and protector of their family.
Many middle-aged men hold traditional views on this and compare themselves to a “gold standard” according to Professor Stephen Platt at the University of Edinburgh who led the research.
The experts think that men in this age group aren’t sure whether they should be more like their austere fathers or like their more progressive children. This “toxic aspect of masculinity” is more prevalent among working class men than middle class ones who have more options and find it easier to cope.
They also suffer more than women from marital breakdowns because they don’t have the emotional skills to fall back on that women and younger people have. Some suicides in men are believed to be motivated by the desire to punish their ex-partner, perhaps for restricting access to their children, or an impulsive reaction to their ex starting a new relationship (and tragically we know that sometimes includes harming their children).
Older men account for 50% of the 6,000 suicides each year with men on benefits particularly over-represented. In the middle age group there were three times as many men than women with almost 2,000 men compared to around 600 women. On a more positive note the number of young men committing suicide has fallen in recent years.
The Samaritans report concludes that it’s masculinity that’s to blame; “the way men are brought up to behave and the roles, attributes and behaviours that society expects of them”.
Catherine Bennett in The Observer writing about this issue cites people like Andrew ‘thrasher” Mitchell , the Tory Chief Whip ( his nickname is not because of his current post but his schoolboy enthusiasm for corporal punishment) and Sir Ralph Fiennes as unhelpful examples of alpha male behaviour
An earlier post dealt with depression which has been on the increase for a while now along with other mental health disorders such as anxiety.