The “one thing” that can stop male suicide

By Glen Poole

This weekend I was fortunate to be part of a fascinating conversation about preventing male suicide in the UK.

It was a conversation of some urgency and importance as it came ahead of a meeting of key players in the suicide prevention field.

The conversation was prompted by one of these people sending an email that simply said something like:

“If there was ONE thing you could change in terms of statutory services to stop male suicide, what would it be? Short answers only by tomorrow please!”

Of course, male suicide is complex and can’t be solved in a sentence, but when you know your response could inform the conversations that are taking place at the highest level of, then it’s vital to rise to the challenge.

I’m committed to helping people to take action to Stop Male Suicide and I’m constantly looking for ways to simplify the complexity of problem. In the past year I’ve written articles, papers and a book that have included:

So I’ve already presented some of the actions we can take to stop male suicide into lists of 10 things, 7 things and even 3 things…….but one thing?

I am big fan of thinking big. I have a vision of the future where gender is no barrier to people living meaningful lives and every individual is just one conversation away from whatever help and support they need. In that future male suicide will no longer be an issue. But what about today?

If I stop “thinking big” for a moment and think in a narrower, focussed, urgent way…..then what one action would I like Government to take to stop male suicide?

Here’s the answer I gave:


The caveats are:

  • It needs to look beyond suicide as a mental health issue
  • It needs to be driven by best practice in male-friendly approaches to helping men (i.e. using the strengths-based approach where we change how we deliver services, rather than the deficit model where we blame men for not dealing with their suicidality by talking about their feelings like women do)
  • It needs to incorporate a social determinants approach that tackles the men’s issues that we know increase men and boys’ risk of suicide. Ideally overseen by a minister for men whose primary concern is to address men’s issues

What did others say

There were about six or seven of us in this conversation, which took place by email over 24 hours and the simple question prompted some excellent responses. Here are some of the highlights of the conversation starting with a call for an inclusive approach to gender equality work and the need for a national training framework:

“I agree with Glen about the need for a male suicide strategy but I would go further and see the lack of such a strategy as a symptom of an even broader blindness to men as having a gender and having any problems arising from their gender

“It would therefore be good to push for a change to the name and mission of the “ministry of women and inequalities” to conform to gender inequality legislation and to reflect all gender inequalities by being called simply “the ministry of gender inequalities”

“In terms of services – it would be good to have a single training framework for all statutory service providers on male suicide”.

Here’s another comment focussing on culture change:

“The one thing we need is a wholesale change in the culture and mindset of statutory authorities in how they view men. In essence, they need to believe that men deserve help too and understand and accept that they have a fundamental duty to vulnerable men at risk of suicide with specific strategies and services. This will not only lead to a specific male suicide strategy, it will fundamentally change how health services are delivered to men and boys across the board.”

And here’s a final comment highlighting the need for a whole of government response:

“I strongly support the proposal for a national male suicide plan. One part of it should be that every statutory body should have a responsibility to investigate and act on every death by suicide amongst recent users of their service.  Every death from suicide must be blazingly visible throughout the organisations that have engaged with people who die from it – and every death must be acted on.

This isn’t going to be fixed by the NHS and local public health and mental health teams – but also the criminal justice system (especially the criminal justice system) – the DWP – and other major public sector employers etc. etc.  For employers (private sector as well), it should be treated as a critical ‘Health & Safety event’ – and investigated accordingly.  All of them can make a difference.”

What do you think?

Some of the answers generated by this simple question are so thought-provoking that I’d love to hear what other people reading this article think:

“If there was ONE thing you could change in terms of statutory services to stop male suicide, what would it be? Short answers only please!”

Drop me a line with your thoughts to or in the comments below and remember the rules: “short answers only please!”

Take action:

The Stop Male Suicide project is dedicated to developing and championing male-friendly approaches to suicide prevention that are designed to help men at risk of suicide.

We’re on a mission to share the knowledge, the wisdom and the skills you need to take action to stop male suicide, by providing:

Take action to make a difference today, together we  can Stop Male Suicide.

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