Rise in male suicides linked to economic downturn


Unemployment and recession having adverse effects on men’s mental health, writes PATSY McGARRY

MALE SUICIDES on the island of Ireland are on the increase and new research suggests a link between these and the recession.

In the Republic, there were 379 male suicides in the year to June 2009. In the year to June 2010, that figure rose to 427.

In Northern Ireland, there were 313 deaths by suicide in 2010, with 240 of those male. It is the highest suicide figure ever for that part of the island.

The figures were published yesterday by the Institute of Public Health in Ireland (IPH) in a report, Facing the Challenge – The Impact of the Recession and Unemployment on Men’s Health in Ireland, to mark the beginning of Men’s Health Week.

Describing this rise in suicides as “a particular cause for concern”, the report noted that research had also found that the recession and unemployment were having “extremely adverse effects” on men’s mental health generally.

In a survey of all frontline organisations dealing with unemployed men on the island of Ireland, it found strong links between the recession/unemploy-ment and adverse health effects on men. It also found that risks to health extended to men who felt threatened by unemployment.

The research was carried out by Nexus Research Co-operative on behalf of the IPH.

It found the main challenges posed by the recession/unemployment to men’s health were high levels of stress or anxiety, dependency on or over-use of alcohol/other drugs and deterioration in physical health.

There were also the challenges of development of conflict in family or close personal relationships, isolation (including sharing or communicating problems), and a reluctance to approach services or seek help.

“Men’s health issues in times of economic recession are made more difficult by their tendency to take fewer health preventative measures, and be less likely to seek support,” said IPH associate director Owen Metcalfe.

The combination of perceived inadequate services and the reluctance of many men to communicate their problems meant that “a large proportion of more critical effects are undoubtedly hidden”, he said.

“Our report suggests that success in addressing the issue will be determined to a large extent by effective partnership arrangements between community-based groups and mainstream service providers.”

Through such research and reports “we can begin to improve public awareness and provide greater support for those who require it”, he added.