Conversations around male mental health and suicide, still seem to be a taboo subject, in recent years there have been many attempts to normalise the conversation, with celebrity indorsements and sponsorships. In 2015, the male suicide prevention charity, CALM welcomed Professor Green as its new patron and received support from recognised retail brands like Lynx and Topman. The hope being that they could initiate a culture of change, and the message it was OK to not be OK.
However, the 2019 Report by the ONS (Office for National Statistics), showed that the suicide rate in men for England and Wales was the highest for two decades. In 2018, there were 6,507 suicides registered in the UK, an age-standardised rate of 11.2 deaths per 100,000 population; the latest rate is significantly higher than that in 2017 and represents the first increase since 2013. Three-quarters of registered deaths in 2018 were among men (4,903 deaths), which has been the case since the mid-1990s. The UK male suicide rate of 17.2 deaths per 100,000 represents a significant increase from the rate in 2017 and males aged 45 to 49 years had the highest age-specific suicide rate. 
These statistics are not even taking into consideration the recent pandemic and whilst there’s no guarantee we will see an increase, The Samaritans chief executive Ruth Sutherland said.
“With the impact of the pandemic this year taking a huge toll on people’s mental wellbeing, we should be even more concerned….
Alarmingly, despite efforts to change the attitudes towards mental health and how men respond to it, they are still the largest demographic to commit suicide. And recent experimental statistic by the ONS, suggests that the suicide from white and mixed ethnic groups were the highest since 2013/2014.
In 2017 to 2019 rates in White males were 14.9 deaths per 100,000, the highest rate of suicide than any other demographic. This coupled with recent statistic showing that white working-class boys are the least likely demographic in Britain to go on to higher education. Therefore, It has to be said, that things are not looking promising for white men and boys in this country and unsurprising we have also seen increasing Far-Right activity over recent years, so should we be worried? The correlation between despair, lack of opportunity and racism can be seen throughout history, in periods of austerity, often there is a need to assign blame and many Far-Right groups will specifically target individuals who show signs of crisis, trauma, poverty, and identity issues. A recent Samaritans report highlighted, that people living in the most deprived areas are 3 times more likely to die by suicide than those in the least deprived areas.
Fig 1 – taken from the ONS website regarding demographic suicides
Volunteers are telling us that many callers have been worried about losing their job and/or business and their finances, with common themes around not being able to pay rent/mortgage, inability to support the family, and fear of homelessness.”
The number of people in Britain who now live in deep poverty has soared by over a million and a half in 20 years and the coronavirus crisis means it will rise even further. And whilst statistics show that you are more likely to be poor if you are disabled or black, or if you have children, nearly one in five of those with a white “head of household” are also living in poverty.
It’s therefore easy to connect the dots as to why we are seeing the increasing popularity of Far-Right groups like Patriotic Alternative and others, who’s social media and webpages show banners displaying the slogan, “White Lives Matter” and propose a complete overhaul of the current state welfare system making it means-tested to benefit those who speak fluent English, (a loosely vailed attempt to mask their white nationalist focus), social housing to no longer be available to those who cannot speak fluent English and a complete overhaul of the current education system heavily weighted towards English speaking students.
If statistics are correct then this shows why there is a growing concern amongst mental health and academic professionals about the future of white males, and although changes and shifts in society regarding gender equality and racial equality are long overdue, perhaps it is also time for us to talk about, “what’s going on with white men”? As a woman living in this country, I am only too aware that the “power”, so to speak always seems to have been so heavily weighted towards white men, and with reluctance to use the word “Plight”, it seems glaring obvious to me that something is also broken and now more than ever, it’s time for a conversation, based on compassion about what is happening to white men as well.
*Image taken from the Patriotic Alternative website.
With increasing numbers of young men joining and contributing to extreme anti-feminist Incel groups, we have seen over 50 people killed in Canada and the US, and here in the UK we have just seen the mass shooting in Plymouth by a 22 year old male Jake Davison, who said he felt, “beaten down” and hadn’t “any willpower to do anything anymore” Davison was described by authorities as mental unwell, but we are unaware whether he received any support.
Whilst the UK government is still reviewing whether Incel activity falls under anti-terrorism legislation and the level of threat it poses, the movement continues to grow. Looking at this, there is a link between the Far-Right and Incel groups and while both are different, there are also, a number of similarities between some of the pull factors for white males, supporting either or even both ideologies and we need to look at this and investigate what is happening and why.
The need for a place to belong or feel heard is something the Far-Right have always taken advantage of and are experts at manipulating, so perhaps by ignoring the very real warning signs that white men, feel they are being underrepresented or unheard, we are simply pushing them into the arms of a greater evil. I’m not making excuses for historical problems or debating whether movements like BLM or Me-too are valid, long overdue and needed, they are of course. But what their existence has also done, is they have created a feeding ground for the Far-Right to target those who already feel their pain and misfortune is not being seen and the far-right are simply stepping in to fill that void. Looking to play devil’s advocate – I would like to ask, wouldn’t it be better and safer for all of us for those concerns to be voiced within society, so extremists can’t take advantage and develop their message of hate?
So what can be done?
In my mind, it’s time to have a real conversation with those involved with these extremist ideologies and groups and identify the symptoms and root causes behind this journey on a one-way path to prison, thus potentially increasing the chance of people looking at suicide as the only way out from their despair of society. Looking at the traditional response of ignoring the human behind the act, this isn’t working and as the Far-Right influence continues to grow we aren’t seeing the methods for combating it adapt, but they have to.
Exit UK, the company I work for, believe the best way to reduce extremism is by using Education, Compassion and Understanding. We do this because we know that without such support people’s pain, can lead to anger and those who feel unheard, may look for an outlet which isn’t positive or inclusive. Instead, all too often this is where the far-right and other extreme groups, step in to offer a safe place to talk, be heard, valued, and offer a welcoming community.
If we want to reduce the threat of Extremist groups maybe it’s time to take a deeper look at the reasons the ideologies seem so attractive, is it just be about hate or could it be because these groups seemingly offer a “solution”, to a section of society that is feeling disillusioned. Whether you agree or not as too “how hard white males have it”, the current method of not listening isn’t working, and from it the far-right threat is growing.
So, what do we need to ask? Well, let’s start with – “Why are white males failing at school?” And “why are white male suicide levels so high?” Yes, these are tough questions, but they need asking and solutions looked for because if we don’t ask these questions, then extremists will, and they will use this as an opportunity to turn disappear and pain into hatred and racism!
Dedicated to challenging extremism and highlighting ALL extremism is wrong, doesn’t mean Exit will not ask difficult questions, we will, because without us doing this, extremism will simply grow, and society will suffer. So, let’s start looking for some answers………………….
Want to help? Looking for alternatives Exit is dedicated to reducing extremism and we welcome the support of others to look at this and develop the support people need so they don’t get involved in extremism, because they are seen as the only ones who care, they aren’t.
In further articles we will look at what can be done and what is needed, talking about things that some may think is taboo, but if we don’t, who will?
Ruth Sutherland, Samaritans Chief executive