Why don’t men talk? Images of masculinity aren’t helping

Sadly, many of us will know a man who has killed himself; and we may well have been surprised as well as heart-broken.

With hindsight, it’s possible the clues were there; but in real time, they may have been decent, normal blokes – the life and soul of the party, even, with everything to live for.

‘And who hasn’t got issues of some sort to deal with?’ we might say…and be right.

But there is a pattern here.

Suicide is the biggest cause of death for men under 49 in the UK, with men three times more likely to take their own lives than women.

And it tends to be a shock because most men contemplating suicide don’t talk about the feelings that have brought them to this difficult place.

So what’s difficult about being a man?

There’s no one simple answer, but research by the Samaritans suggests men often compare themselves to a ‘gold standard’ of masculinity which they find hard to live up to.

If these feelings of inadequacy and alienation aren’t expressed or talked through, they can turn inwards as self-punishment and shame and become depression.

Jane Powell is CEO of the male suicide awareness charity, Campaign against Living Miserably. (CALM)

She says that while women in recent times have been given more freedom to define their roles, men are still expected to conform to society’s notion that they shouldn’t display vulnerability.

‘Men are really good at understanding signs from society – and the signs they are getting are ‘man up, and grow a pair.’’

But it doesn’t have to be this way; we could offer different signs.

It’s a good day when a man feels safe enough to talk…