Our written submission to the Health Committee inquiry on suicide prevention

Suicide has for many years been the leading cause of death of males between the ages of 15 and 49, but the government fails to recognize it as a highly gendered issue. £1.5 million is being spent on five studies into suicide, none of which are charged with investigating male suicide specifically. All too often health ministers speak of suicide only in mental health terms, in effect victim blaming.

We covered the issue of suicide in our 2015 general election manifesto (pp. 46-8). The male:female suicide differential more than doubled between 1983 and 2013, from 1.7:1 to 3.5:1, mainly as a result of a major fall in the female suicide rate.

Last year the International Business Times published my article on male suicide – here.

The Health Committee of the House of Commons has 11 MPs, 8 of whom are women, including the chair, Dr Sarah Wollaston (C, Totnes). The committee recently announced an inquiry on suicide prevention, our blog piece on the matter – with links to the inquiry website – is here. The terms of reference include the following:

The factors influencing the increase in suicide rates, with a focus on particularly at-risk groups.

Last month I sent a written submission to the inquiry, here.

I’ve asked to give oral evidence to the inquiry, and I should know the outcome of that request in the next week or two. My last appearance before a House of Commons Select Committee was in 2012, an inquiry into ‘Women in the Workplace’. The video (56:50) is here.

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About Mike Buchanan

I'm a men's human rights advocate, writer, and publisher. My primary focus is leading the political party I launched in 2013, Justice for Men & Boys (and the women who love them). I still work actively on two campaigns I launched in early 2012, Campaign for Merit in Business and the Anti-Feminism League. In 2014 I launched The Alternative Sexism Project, aiming to raise public understanding that the sexism faced by men and boys has far more grievous consequences than the sexism faced by women and girls.
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  • Instead of focusing on suicide prevention in men, they concern themselves with how much h more time girls spend on chores than boys.

  • I would like to express my gratitude to Mike Buchanan for picking up the gauntlet of this current topic and the many other issues in regard to the circumstances affecting men and boys in our society today.

    Suicide. Mmm. Scary topic isnt it. How about we sweep it under the carpet…?

    I appreciate very much the fact that Mike is prepared to swim in such turbulent waters in the interest of others and to offer a voice for all in a very important debate.

    As a 53 year old man I have been around the block a couple of times. As I have progressed along my own path from boyhood to manhood I have observed and experienced many aspects of life in Britain, in the West. Those observations and experiences have informed me and enabled me to come to a number of conclusions as to the functioning of this society both in terms of effective and ineffective practices and procedures.

    I am not alone in that.

    It is apparent to me that much of life is spent attempting to choose the right path forward when choices are unclear and difficult. Maintaining calm healthy clarity is vital when steering one’s course. One consideration towards this end is that of maintaining a positive outlook, and it is with this intent that the notion of ‘Positive Thinking’ has been developed over recent years. In order to be resilient and effective it has been suggested that with positive thinking we will be socially emotionally and mentally healthy. This is a nice idea. The thing is, though, that positive thinking is not a magical solution; I would like to challenge it here, but without cynicism.

    The reality is that as men (and women) in order to maintain our sanity, good health, and clarity of thought we must be both aware and realistic. Delusional optimism is no substitute for objective understanding particularly when facing difficult circumstances. Modern Life Is Tough. It is hostile. The reality is that as individuals we are exposed to an overwhelming overload of conflicting and therefore confusing information and stimuli from our interaction with the world. Acheiving necessary clarity in a storm of confusion is extremely difficult. In the past life was more simple. Our grandparents did not have it easy but elements of community were more secure. Today division is commonplace. It is one of the inevitable spin-offs of diversity. Before the technological explosion our interaction with the world around us was mostly immediate and local. Personal relationships, close family ties, limited outside influence, life was more immediate and real. But as we all know things have changed to an unrecognisable degree. The technology based media in particular are intent on seizing our attention 24/7, to influence our thinking, to affect our opinions, to encourage our spending. Bright lights, exciting imagery, wishful thinking…their objective is not to inform or deliver the truth but to sell a product. We all know this by now. Much of what we are shown is unhelpful. Much more of it is actually harmful to our own processing, our perceptions and legitimate healthy objectives. On many levels we are being misled.

    It is this environment of malpractice that we attempt to grow into healthy responsible respectful individuals. We, all of us, have a duty to develop into socially healthy constructive members of society but, in all honesty, the odds are increasingly stacked against. Do not be fooled.. this is not a peaceful society. Both men and women swim in this tide of disruptive influence but it is rarely called out for what it is.
    Many women in society do not function at the level they have the ability to. Many men are the same. Our children suffer the inevitable consequences. Social emotional dischord within the home and beyond create confusion and demoralisation, frustration and anxiety, all of which manifests as distorted outlooks and behaviours in individuals to the degree of self-damaging behaviour. Much of that.behaviour is regarded bizarrely as ‘normal’. This is the reality. and this is the territory of self-destruction. Sucide.
    I am not being melodramatic. I am setting the scene.

    The consequence of an unhealthy self-harming society is an increase in people taking their own lives. This is our collective experience. It must be addressed. It is not acceptible. As men we have the responsibility to point out the delusional harmful practices which are impacting so devestatingly on so many lives. The diminished appreciation of men as fathers is one such harmful practice. Boys, girls, children suffer. And many women do not seem to appreciate at this stage that they too are suffering the consequence. Many appear to be comfortable in the thought that ‘the State will provide’… the truth will out.

    And who will speak out against this delusion?

    Positive thinking alone will not resolve the issues we face. Focussing on the silver lining will not prevent the storm. We need to understand, explain and reassure eachother that experiencing social emotional anguish in this society is ‘normal’ in the same way that excessive exposure to lead in the environment is harmful.We need to explore the issues which lead to self-destructive behaviours and once we have identified them accept them and address them. This must be done in the interest of every man and boy experiencing difficulty, marginalisation and hostility in our society today. But it must be done not just in the interest of men and boys.. it must be done in the interest if the the women who love them and, as importantly, in the interest of the women who dont. And believe me these women exist. The reality is that a healthy society depends on healthy men, women, and children interacting effectively together. Overlooking mens’ social emotional and mental health issues as a societal norm must be addressed and we as men must encourage and support eachother until awareness and improvement comes. Please remember this: Respect for the common man is not a high priority in this increasingly hostile feminised society. This is an imbalance which must be remedied in all of our interests. We may not currently value the lives of men as we should but surely we cannot tolerate harm towards our sons and daughters.

    And I would say finally to anyone of you guys experiencing negative self-depreciating hostile thoughts.. Do not worry…you are not crazy..take your time.. you are not alone. Being disrespected, undermined, overlooked and unappreciated is a process which takes its toll. It is a covert procedure.. it cannot easily be seen but its effects are real. Many of us are experiencing or have experienced the same thing at work, at home, and beyond. This is only a moment. Take your time..Have a cup of tea and get busy. Seriously. There is a job to do. And we must work together to acheive a positive outcome.

    And with that said thanks for reading these words…Peace and Goodwill to All…(And it’s not even Christmas yet!)

  • Thank you for your hard work on that submission, Mike. It is a good summary and a harsh indictment of past and current governments.

    I reported on your work and summarised what I saw as the main points, for those less involved or with too little time to grasp the detail of the subject:

  • bakamonosan

    I would like to echo the other comments, Mike. There must be times when society’s indifference gets you down.

    But your activism inspires me to do my bit, small and inconsequential though it may be. Rage on, Mike, jaywalker extraordinaire.

    • Thank you. Society’s indifference doesn’t get me down, it energizes me. I don’t know why, but it does.

      • And I am grateful, as I hope others are. I both hope and expect you will have that Farage moment when your personal commitment is vindicated.

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