Man’s Biggest Killer
Eighty-four every week. Twelve every day. One every two hours.
That’s how many men take their own lives in the UK and Republic of Ireland, according to a Samaritans report.
There were more than 6,000 suicides in the UK in 2015 and, with the rate of male suicide around three times that of female suicide, it is the biggest killer of men under 45 in the country.
In Scotland, 18.5 men per 100,000 committed suicide in 2015, with those aged 35-44 most at risk; 32 per 100,000.
Brothers In Arms, formed in 2017, is Scotland’s first men’s suicide and mental health charity, and they are dedicated to preventing male suicide and addressing the stigma around men’s mental health.
Campbell Nelson, one of the founders of Brothers In Arms, hopes the charity can make the statistics and discussion around male suicide more widely known.
“The fact that suicide is the single biggest killer of males under the age of 45 in Scotland speaks for itself. We often hear how heart disease and obesity are killing Scots early, or how violent crimes are on the rise, but we rarely hear of the suicide statistic.
“[We want to] bring the worrying statistics of male suicide in Scotland into the public eye to get the debate out in the open for discussion and show that we want men to believe they can ask for help in an effort to prevent male suicide.”
Christopher Tolmie, 26, who recently lost his brother Matthew to suicide, said: “I have friends who have tragically lost friends or relatives, but it never becomes so important to you until you experience it first-hand.
“[Matthew] was just 27 years old and would never have meant to cause the devastation that his death did for so many friends and family. He didn’t want to die as he had so much to live for but in his mental state at the time, he couldn’t see a way out.”
Shortly after his brother’s death, Tolmie was directed to Brothers In Arms.
“I was looking for charities to make a collection in aide of at his funeral and they combat the issue of male suicide head on, so it felt right to do it for them. I met the founder, Dan, and instantly found myself agreeing with his visions and ambitions for the charity.
“Since that meeting, I have been involved in getting the charity into the public sphere in ways such as presentation stalls at the Scottish Parliament and raising awareness of Brother Being Mankind, an educational initiative aimed at raising awareness of the power of positive male role models in boys’ lives in the development of mental health and wellbeing.”
Taking the charity to Scottish Parliament is something Nelson believes can help promote the work they do.
“It was a huge step for us going forward. We were at Holyrood for three days, and this brought us some great media coverage. Getting the questions raised at First Minister’s Question Time has helped massively to open the debate to the next level.”
After meeting Brothers in Arms at Holyrood, MP Humza Yousuf tweeted his support for the charity, saying he was “really moved” by meeting them and praised their “great work to support men who are feeling suicidal”.
As well as Brother Being Mankind, which has resource packs that are being rolled out to schools and educational institutions, Brothers In Arms have also developed a mobile app called #brotherfeelstressfree, which allows users to track their mental wellbeing, recommends activities for times of distress, and has direct contacts to call centres and people who can help. This can be downloaded on their website.
With Mental Health Awareness Week having just finished, both Tolmie and Nelson are advocates of the awareness week and the fact that it highlights the taboo topic of suicide.
Tolmie said: “It is incredibly important as it brings to the fore a subject which is ever present within our society. Two-thirds of us will, at some point, experience poor mental health in our lives. I think one of the key aims of heightened awareness is to let people who may be suffering, usually in silence, know that there is help out there and that they are not alone.”
Nelson added: “Mental Health Awareness Week shows people that help is available, however, what is most important is keeping the momentum going in the weeks and months afterwards, and ensuring that it does not become a back-burner issue.”
The death of Frightened Rabbit frontman, Scott Hutchison, has also brought male suicide into the public eye, and it has had an impact on Brothers in Arms.
Nelson said: “We have seen a rise in activity on our social platforms as well as a surge in app downloads with 300 active downloads in the seven days since.
“In addition to this, we have also had a few people from the music industry reach out to us, as well as having received invites to attend a few festivals with a stand to help raise awareness.”
Male suicide has been generally been on the decline in Scotland since the turn of the century, according to Samaritans, but it is acknowledged that official statistics on suicide are lower than the true figure, one of the main reasons being misclassification of deaths.
Misclassification, as well as issues with death registration processes being inconsistent across different countries, can lead to questions about the reliability of suicide statistics, especially when comparing them across countries.
However, it is about more than statistics, and Tolmie believes that it is important to get people who are suffering to talk about their issues.
“[If someone is considering taking their own life] I would not say a single thing to them, I would listen. The problem is that people are quick to talk about this subject when it is not them that need to talk; it’s the guys that are suffering in silence that need to.”
He added: “We need to change the way we view men as being weak if they experience bad thoughts and talk about them.”
Nelson said: “Ninety per cent of the battle is talking about it, and you’ll feel so much lighter after that first conversation. If you don’t feel like you can talk to a friend or family, send us a message.”
You are not alone and you do not need to suffer in silence.