Photo credit: Tim Marshall

Photo credit: Tim Marshall

Today marks International Men’s Day; it’s a calendar date that cumulates little attention in comparison to its female counterpart, International Women’s Day, which takes place on 8th March every year.

It’s important to note, and of course reign in, any negativity this may bring to attention, such as gender equality.  Last year’s International Men’s Day saw people in the media, and on social media, take the opportunity to instead focus issues of gender equality such as pay gaps, glass ceilings, childcare issues and, ironically, everyday sexism.

And quite rightly so, this year’s theme is Stop Male Suicide, a project hailing from Australia, which is on a mission to make it easier for everyone who cares about preventing male suicide to take action that makes a difference.  The suicide rate is worse for men than women in every country bar China and averaged out on a country by country basis the rate of suicide for men, is up to three times that of women.  Men’s health is worse than women’s in every part of the world.  This is no competition however, yet a very sad state of real issues which must be tackled.

International Men’s Day is a day where our men have a voice, and they are voices that deserve to be heard. Robert Stringer, the father of 18-year-old Hector, who took his life in 2011 was quoted in an article in The Guardian in which he stated: “Men should be dynamic, problem-solving, in control, go-getting, vital, successful and soft as and when required.  Men’s magazines are about tight abs, not how you feel.  Currently there is no real way of reaching men to discuss how they feel”.  

Stringer continued, “The message to men is that to be a real ‘man’ you shouldn’t have such ‘female’ qualities.  Whilst I think that life has got much better for women over the past 30 or 40 years, it hasn’t for men”.

The topic here is the important issues surrounding what International Men’s Day is striving to highlight, rather than placing the spotlight on men versus women, which Jess Philips, UK Labour Party MP, ignorantly wrote in her article for The Independent (UK) in which she stated: “We need International Men’s Day about as much as white history month, or able body action day.” She then acknowledged that: “men should be able to cry publicly without shame, show weakness and expect kindness back.” However, she goes on to ruin the article with a completely unnecessary rhetoric: “Men are celebrated, elevated and awarded every day of the week on every day of the year. Being a man is its own reward. You hit the jackpot when you are born a boy child. Yes within your group things are tough for all sorts of reasons. None of them are because you are a man.

In Ms Philips’ defence, she is entitled to her own opinion.  The problem with this kind of narrative, though, is that it detracts from the very real, important issues we need to focus on.

International Men’s Day isn’t a day to bash men.  It isn’t a day to accuse them of being misogynists.  It’s a day which focus’ on men’s and boy’s health, improving gender relations, promoting gender equality, and highlighting positive role models.  It is an occasion for men to celebrate their achievements and contributions.

A feminist, with any self-respect, will recognise that ‘men’s issues’ are just as valid as ‘women’s issues’ and if an annual ‘day’ helps to highlight them as much as International Women’s Day highlights, say, rape, female genital mutilation and domestic abuse, then that can surely only be a positive thing?

So let’s look at the numbers, here are some statistics from the Samaritans’ Suicide Statistics Report 2016:

  • There were 6,581 suicides in the UK and Republic of Ireland, in 2014
  • In 2014, 6,122 suicides were registered in the UK.  
  • The highest suicide rate in the UK in 2014 was for men aged 45-49.
  • Men remain more than three times more likely to take their own lives than women across the UK and Republic of Ireland.

Please click here to read the full report.

Suicide is not inevitable, it is preventable.  The better we all get at identifying those most at risk and finding ways to reach them, the less vulnerable these individuals will be. The causes of suicide are complex but raising awareness of the issues and reducing stigma, will encourage people to seek help before they reach the crisis point, ensuring the appropriate support and services are available to everyone.  

The motto for this year’s IMD is LEARN+LOVE+LISTEN, which was a quote extracted from IND UK Coordinator Glen Poole’s book, ‘Stop Male Suicide’, and he suggests that if we each applied this saying every day the world would become a better place.

So reach out and start that conversation, spread awareness and listen to learn.  Male suicide and mental health problems in general are a global epidemic so don’t just stop there.  LEARN+LOVE+LISTEN all year round.

Head to International Men’s Day for more information on how you can spread awareness on male suicide.

Men make sacrifices every day in their place of work, in their role as husbands and fathers, for their families, for their friends, for their communities and for their nation.  Let's all appreciate the men in our lives and the contribution they make to society for the greater good of all.

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