This week, the annual suicide figures were released albeit covering up to the end of 2011:
- There were 4,552 male suicides in 2011 (a rate of 18.2 suicides per 100,000 population) and 1,493 female suicides (5.6 per 100,000 population).
The highest suicide rate was seen in males aged 30 to 44 (23.5 deaths per 100,000 population in 2011).
The suicide rate in males aged 45 to 59 increased significantly between 2007 and 2011 (22.2 deaths per 100,000 population in 2011)
As the Daily Mail pointed out, more men commit suicide than die in road accidents. There was more coverage in the Guardian and Independent. CALM's, Jane Powell was in the Guardian (Suicide is a gender issue)
Norman Lamb, the care services minister, said the figures caused very real concern, and they needed to be tackled "head on". This was after he launched a new suicide prevention strategy last year (if you click on the link at the bottom of the release it is broken - says it all).
So what are the issues.
Firstly, despite the biased rhetoric the recession and continuing problems in the job market will lead to more suicide and more amounts men (and women). Liverpool University showed that between 2008 and 2010, an extra 846 men had taken their lives and an extra 155 women. When anyone from the Guardian, Fawcett Society, TUC and Labour Party state this remind them that men are literally dying because of the recession.
Secondly, the policy response in the strategy is startling and weak. If you compare the policy response to domestic abuse (c33% victims are male/66% are female) and suicide (c75% victims are male/25% are male) there are huge differences which prove once again the institutional discrimination faced by men in Britain.
For domestic abuse, the government strategy to tackle this is called Ending Violence Against Women and Girls - and covers all genders (yes, I know, how can men be represented in a strategy called this and they get one mention). Yet the strategy for suicide is not gendered - it is not called Ending Suicide Amongst Men and Boys.
If there was no institutional discrimination and sexism against men then this is what the suicide strategy would be called.
The suicide strategy strategy's press release cannot even bring itself to mention men in the text (only in a fact at the end) even though the strategy does talk about men as the biggest high risk group. If 75% of those who committed suicide were women, it would run through it like words in a stick of rock. The strategy itself just seems full of public-sector speak with very little practical action. It looks like a tick box exercise.
There is an argument rightly that strategies should be overarching but have gendered approaches within them if required (men and women are different and may need different approaches where necessary) so long as they do not negatively impact on the other gender. It is just the hypocrisy of highlighting gender when it affects women and not mentioming it when it effects men.
Posted by Skimmington