Could helping men to help each other be one of the key weapons we’re missing in the fight to Stop Male Suicide?
It’s often argued that getting men to ‘open up’ is the best way to reduce the high male suicide rate, but sometimes the reason men don’t ‘open up’ is that the people listening haven’t got the skills or knowledge to know how to respond.
According to a report by the University Times on the high rate of young male suicide in Ireland, one of the approaches being taken at Trinity College Dublin is to “help students to help their friends”.
The rate of suicide among young men in Ireland aged 20 and 24, was the fourth highest in Europe in 2011 and is more than five times higher than the rate for young women aged 20 and 24.
According to the Director of the Student Counselling Service at Trinity, Dr Deirdre Flynn, while young men can find it difficult to ‘open up’ , around 700 male students a year access the Student Counselling Service. Flynn says building the resilience of the student community to support each other is a key part of their approach. “We need to help students help their friends and direct them, peer supporters, Student2Student (S2S), sabbatical officers, tutors,” she says. “It’s about having these layers”
One of the layers of support that can make it easier for young men to access help is other men. For younger males, Flynn says that access to older male role models is part of the solution. “In terms of role models,” she says “high-profile males are fabulous. The value of that relationship cannot be overstated, whether it is a tutor, chaplain or lecturer. For men, it’s important that [role models] are other men.”
Father Alan O’Sullivan, one of Trinity’s college chaplains, is one such role model. He told the University Times: “I think one of the major issues for young men is communication, it is possible to live life with only ‘social buddies’ who are not people one can share vulnerable moments with”.
According to the University Times, O’Sullivan sees a need for young people to have strong relationships, but these too can be “fragile, leading to depression and even thoughts of suicide” when they end.
This view seems to accord with the Australian Bureau of Statistics, which says that while “many complex factors might influence a person’s decision to suicide, these preventable deaths point to individuals who may be less connected to support networks or may be less intimately connected to people who might otherwise be aware of problems or step in to assist.”
One thing is clear, it isn’t enough to simply say that ‘men don’t talk’. As Flynn says: “Lots of people do disclose suicidal thoughts to their friends. We need to help students help their friends”.
Maybe we could apply this same thinking more broadly and argue that it is we need to find innovative and effective ways to help men help each other.
EDITORIAL DISCLAIMER: In line with our commitment to promoting a culture of learning, loving and listening, the Stop Male Suicide Project will publish a diverse range of news items and viewpoints on topics such as male suicide, men’s issues, masculinity and gender politics. Publishing such stories and viewpoints does not mean that the Stop Male Suicide project endorses or supports such viewpoints. It simply means that we are committed to making it easier for people to share what they think and feel about male suicide. We actively welcome a broad diversity of perspectives and we are committed to making it easier for people—and in particular men—to talk and listen. Talking and listening is two-way process that is central to our efforts to Stop Male Suicide.