Another crisis taking the lives of men under 45

(Trigger warning, discussions of suicide and suicidal ideation)

Blog Article | By Simplyhealth | 6 October 2022

It’s no secret that this country is in crisis. But beyond the financial crisis we are in, there’s another ongoing more ‘silent’ crisis – the mental health crisis. And reports have shown that men are suffering the most, with men aged 40 to 49 experiencing the highest suicide rates in the UK1. But how can this be with the increased awareness in media, in conversations and in the workplace? Let’s dive deeper into what you can do to help yourself as well as others and best navigate this world with mental health.

The silent crisis

Tragically cited as the single biggest killer of men under 452, death by suicide is an epidemic we simply can’t ignore. From financial worries to work issues, men’s propensity to bottle things up and a culture of toxic masculinity have enabled this silent but deadly killer to continue to take the lives of men all around the world. And, with the current cost of living crisis, coupled with adjusting to a post-pandemic world, it’s an environment rife for anxiety, depression and at its worse, loss of life. But what can we do to support ourselves and others?

Man having a thoughtful conversation and listening to his friend

Be a mental health advocate

Advocacy means listening and allowing people to explore their options in a safe environment3. You can practice advocacy and allyship in all your relationships, at home and at work. This could mean pointing your loved one or colleague to resources and mental health services such as their employee assistance programme (EAP) at work or encouraging them to seek help from a GP or their community mental health team. Generally, the want to become a mental health advocate comes from understanding, you yourself may have dealt with personal struggles or supported someone close to you in the past. By sharing your stories, and encouraging a culture of openness and support, this can bring you closer to others and encourage them too to share their stories and fears. 

Beyond personal support, you can also advocate in other practical ways such as being a Mental Health First Aider at work - check with your HR department to see if they offer this. You could volunteer or organise a fundraiser to support a mental health charity such as Mind or Calm. But ultimately, being a true advocate means living and breathing open mental health conversation, ensuring the language used by your friends, family and colleagues around mental health is thoughtful and respectful.

Risk factors

There has been much research into why men, middle-aged men in particular, are the most likely group to die by suicide. From this research, several risk categories were identified for the medical profession and loved ones to be able to look out for those groups. Risk factors including unemployment and money troubles4 which have been further exacerbated by the pandemic and current cost of living crisis, are wreaking havoc on the country’s mental health. Where people live is a further potential risk factor, with the most deprived areas in the UK being worst hit by suicide5

There are other important stats too. In a study conducted by Manchester University in 2021, they found that dealing with bereavement was reported in 34% of deaths by suicide6, with the recent death of a loved one being a risk factor. Also, a significant 66% of men who died by suicide had been diagnosed with a mental health condition previously. And, of this demographic, 45% reported living alone. It’s important to know your friends' and colleagues’ personal situations and check in on them, as these risk factors could increase their risk of suicidal thoughts and feelings.

The signs someone needs support

Everyone has mental health, it’s just the quality of our mental health that fluctuates throughout our lives. After all, 1 in 4 of us will experience a mental health issue each year7/8. But what are the signs that you or your loved one’s mental health is deteriorating? 

Catching zzz’s

For many, there are some tell-tale signs that you’re not feeling quite right. Changes in sleep and appetite could be an indication of declining mental health9,10. From sleeping too much because of low mood and energy to sleeping too little due to anxious worrying and ruminating thoughts, both can be signs of an underlying issue11. This can be helped by improving your bedtime routine including minimising screen time, ensuring you get enough sunlight daily and creating a relaxing sleep environment with calming scents and comfortable bedding. Try and engage in movement throughout the day, this could be anything from a long walk, gentle yoga or maybe a boxing session at your local gym! Also, be mindful of what you’re consuming before shut-eye by avoiding caffeine 6 hours before sleeping – alcohol can also disturb your sleep quality. All these things can contribute to a good night’s kip. So, if your friend or colleague seems lethargic, looks visibly tired or is complaining about not getting enough zzz’s why not share some of these tips?

Changes in appetite

Drastic changes in weight, including significant gain or loss, is another sure indication you or your loved one is experiencing issues12. Whether it’s due to depression, anxiety or something else, overeating and undereating can be a symptom of poor mental health. Burning lots of energy quickly due to anxiety or lack of movement or overeating due to depression can cause your weight to change. It can be a tricky subject to bring up but if you notice drastic changes in someone’s mood and weight, let them know help is there. 

Loss of interest 

Another sign to watch out for is loss of interest in… well just about everything 13. It’s called ‘anhedonia’ and refers to that feeling when all the fun has been sucked out of life and you just can’t. Have they been skipping their weekly football training or not taking part in the work coffee mornings? Be sure to check in on them, it could be a sign things are not okay. 

Suicidal behaviour 

Perhaps most important of all is being able to spot suicidal behaviour. Your loved one could be openly talking about death, self-harming or taking part in reckless behaviour including drink-driving or drug use14. They may also express feelings of hopelessness and start giving away their possessions. It’s important to offer a non-judgemental space for them to express their feelings and encourage them to seek help from their GP or mental health professional and, in extreme cases, the emergency services. Remember middle-aged men are in the highest risk group for suicide15, so take special care when looking out for your friends, family and colleagues in this group.

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