by Sam Muir
Death serves as a pertinent reminder of the fragility of life. Suicide, however is not quite as simplistic or as ¨natural¨. For a plethora of absurd reasons suicide remains a taboo internationally and perspectives differ subjectively. Although, without question it is the individual’s prerogative to believe what they must, the tainted view of the minority should be rectified in order to emanate a degree of acceptance.
Effective disambiguation of suicide is to intentionally cause one’s own death. Circumstances, mental well being, substance abuse and financial status among others are all considered risk factors that inevitably lead to the culmination of instability. Unfortunately, what mainstream media sources have the public believe is that suicide is entirely preventable and is at present, no longer a pressing issue, though the facts remain. Suicide is the 10th largest cause of death in the US (CDC). There is one death every 12 minutes from suicide (CDC) and perhaps most prominent and revealing of societies stigmatisation is that 79% of all suicides are male.
Society and culture enforce irrational guidelines which oppress afflicted men. This results in a clear transition between generations. Evident with a stereotypical older generation radiating a desirable masculinity, and the ability to solve problems single handedly, unaided. Starkly contrasted to the younger generations which possess individualistic, progressive traits that allow for easier communication. The daunting male ideal has been etched in the minds of the young and old alike and subconsciously makes the task of divulging personal problems far more arduous. In the UK, men are three times more likely than women to take their own life (Samaritans, 2012), so it is now just a matter of establishing the initial risk factors and alleviating the epidemic. The highest challenge thus far is to suppress the stigma that places a number of hardships on men’s health and makes it arguably more difficult for the male population to openly discuss personal issues for fear of seeming less ¨manly¨ and being treated with contempt by peers.
Identifying the root cause(s) of suicidal tendencies is a valuable tool in being able to provide the right help and preventing a large proportion of suicides. One such model of behaviour is the integrated motivational-volitional model (IMV) propositioned to identify the paradigm of causation in a three phase design (O’Connor, 2011) and highlight an individual’s vulnerability.
Models like O’Connor’s are growing in popularity among medical professionals and their circulation is having a significant impact on reducing the numbers of attempted and ¨successful¨ suicide cases. The importance of these models is definitive, for so long and even in contemporary medicine, physical illnesses were regarded with greater priority than mental illnesses. At the start of 2016, Prime Minister David Cameron became the first ever to address mental illness in a public speech. He followed up his concerns with a pledge of £1billion to the country’s mental health services (Independent, 2016). However it is argued that under the Conservative reign and the austerity policies endorsed by Cameron that the damage to the country’s mental health had already been dealt and was thus irreparable. With Cameron as PM the demand for mental health facilities had grown by 20% whilst the budgets were despairingly slashed by 8%. A large quantity of campaigners are adamant that there is a growing disparity between the governments promises and the amount of funding reaching the services.
Regardless of the government’s duties and empty promises the NHS committed to a landmark change in 2012 when it agreed to treat physical and mental health with a parity of esteem. In other words; with equality and shared priority. Yet despite claims this has been refuted. Of 53 trusts in the UK, 29 reported a drop in funding, causing a mirrored loss of 1.4% in psychiatric nurses over the last four years (BBC, 2016).
The onset of mental illness does not definitively predict suicide. However, due to the disgraced gender disparity in cases of suicide, far more can be accomplished to make suicide more preventable. The problem will never fully be eradicated but a head start can be gained if the government and the Secretary of State, Jeremy Hunt, prioritised the epidemic that is suicide in the UK. With the progression of time the stigma surrounding men’s mental health will hopefully be overturned and psychiatric services will see an influx of male patients. As individuals there is more to be done to drive home the importance of international mental welfare and we are on the frontline of the radical change that is now a necessity.