Suicide in the UK and the Implications for Male-Dominated Industries

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By Rebecca Reilly

10th September 2019

In the last year, deaths by suicide rose by 11.8% in the UK and remains the top cause of death for men aged 45-49.  Males are 3 times more likely to commit suicide than women and this number is still rising.1

These statistics are of particular concern to male dominated industries, such as the construction industry, who urgently need to develop methods to tackle this issue and provide better support especially for male employees.

To do this successfully, it is important to be aware of the associated risk factors which can contribute to a worsening of mental health in males which elevates the risk of suicide.

Risk factors for males

Pertinent male related factors can contribute to a worsening of mental health which elevates the risk of suicide.  These factors include:

  • Bravado, unhelpful stoic belief systems and a stigmatised view on mental health which make it more difficult to speak out or access services.
  • Men are statistically less likely to use mental health services. This could be attributable to the model of talking-therapy which is more conducive to a stereotypical female’s approach, who are more likely to openly share their problems.
  • Men generally display a lack of help-seeking or asking behaviour as compared to females. They are also less likely to seek help from their family or peers.
  • Limited knowledge of spotting the signs and symptoms of mental distress, emotion regulation and how to manage stress effectively.
  • Environmental and personal challenges faced in mid-life can increase experiences of low mental health.

Risk factors in industry

As well as these internal biases which elevate the risk of suicide, risk factors commonly associated with male-dominated industries can also have an impact.  These include:

  • Job insecurity or uncertainty. Contracted work is common in the Construction industry and can lead to feelings of uncertainty of where the next job may be coming from
  • Workplace stress can be high, especially when balancing tight client deadlines and long hours with high expectations
  • Due to long hours working at off-site projects, a lack of social interaction with a team can lead to feelings of isolation for employees

Taking into account the associated risk factors,

What can an organisation do to help reduce the risk of suicide amongst male employees? 

A few actions to consider:

  1. Consider gender targeted strategies. This could include running programs such as ‘Men in Sheds’,  an initiative which provides males with indirect peer-to-peer support.
  2. Consider strategies which mitigate the stereotypes around perceived masculinity and stigma associated with help-seeking behaviours and having mental health issues.
  3. Consider alcohol awareness and substance misuse information workshops to help inform on the associated risks
  4. Consider rolling out a mental health self-care program where employees can be informed on healthy ways to cope with life stressors and develop strategies for good emotional regulation.
  5. Consider a suicide awareness campaign to encourage conversation on the topic.

https://www.samaritans.org/about-samaritans/research-policy/suicide-facts-and-figures/