Efforts to reduce male suicide 'mistaken'

The best efforts and policies cannot work without families', friends' help

All organisations working to reduce male suicide, including the HSE and charities, have been making a “serious mistake”, the founder of one of the most well-known organisations in the area has said.

Joan Freeman, chief executive of Pieta House said all organisations and policy makers had forgotten "the most important component in male-suicide reduction.

“We have left out families, friends and colleagues from the picture. We can’t do this without them. How are we to know who’s at risk unless it’s family, friends and colleagues who are living with the people, who bring help to them.”

She said men and boys in particular were notoriously bad about asking for help at any time , and this was only exacerbated when they were low or depressed. “If you fell and broke your leg would you be expected to get help yourself? We are talking about broken lives here. Why would we expect anyone to get help for themselves.”


Ms Freeman was speaking at the announcement of an initiative by Pieta House, calling on women and men to keep an eye on and reach out to the men in their lives who are in crisis. ’Mind Our Men’ is a campaign to equip people with the skills to reach out and talk to men in their lives.

Pointing out that 10 people a week die by suicide and that eight of these are men, she said all the great work by organisations and the HSE, all the publicity campaigns and websites, were missing their targets unless the loved ones and colleagues of vulnerable men and boys were working on the front-line too.

“ So I think the whole country made a big mistake and we forgot the most important component in male-suicide reduction . Whatever about policy-makers, Pieta House did too. Unless we have that major component on board,we are not going to reduce suicide.

Asked when Pieta House realised this gap in their strategy she said: “Only last year and we have been working frantically on it ever since . The most basic truth is men will not ask for help. We have got to accept that and start from that premise.”

Members fo the public can access information and support on suicide prevention, along with a list of national services and resources, at mindourmen.ie

There is also a campaign to designate contact people within businesses and workplaces, called Ming Your Buddy, which is currently being implemented in male-dominated work-places, including An Garda Síochána the Defence Forces and the Gaelic Players Association.

Kitty Holland

Kitty Holland

Kitty Holland is Social Affairs Correspondent of The Irish Times