Twitter @AshleyFulwood ashley@ocduk.org

Suicide by middle-aged men – Paper by National Confidential Inquiry into Suicide and Safety in Mental Health (NCISH)

In my previous blog above I reference a paper Suicide by middle-aged men published by the National Confidential Inquiry into Suicide and Safety in Mental Health (NCISH).

As much as it pains me to admit I am middle aged, it does make for interesting or rather I should say it makes for startling, reading. I did not know that since 2013, men aged 40-54 have had the highest suicide rate in the UK; accounting for a quarter of all suicide deaths in 2019, that’s was a startling revelation and something of a wake up call as I mentioned in my previous blog.

For anybody that would like to read the report, this is the link:
https://sites.manchester.ac.uk/ncish/reports/suicide-by-middle-aged-men/

The researchers identified 1,516 men aged 40-54 who died by suicide in the 12 month study period (2017); of these, they selected a random sample of approximately 20% (n=288) for whom further information on the factors relating to suicide was sought – these men are the main focus of the study.

Some of the key summary findings included:

  • Since 2013, men aged 40-54 have had the highest suicide rate in the UK; accounting for a quarter of all suicide deaths in 2019
  • The suicide rate in middle-aged men in the UK is 3 times higher than women of the same age and 1.5 times greater than men in other age groups.
  • Almost all (91%) middle-aged men had been in contact with at least one frontline service or agency, most often primary care services (82%). Half had been in contact with mental health services, 30% with the justice system.
  • High rates of key risk factors were found, compared to their incidence in the general population. 30% of men were unemployed, and a fifth (21%) were divorced or separated. Over a third (36%) reported a problem with alcohol misuse; 31% reported illicit drug use.
  • Overall, 57% were experiencing economic problems – unemployment, finances or accommodation – at the time of death
  • 45% were reported as living alone; 11% had reported recent social isolation
  • More than half (52%) of men who died had a physical health condition, most commonly circulatory system diseases, such as hypertension.
  • A comparatively low rate (5%) of engagement with talking therapies was evident among the men we studied, despite the higher than expected rate of contact with services that we found. This is consistent with data showing women are twice as likely as men to finish a course of Improving Access to Psychological Therapies (IAPT), and are more likely than men to seek help through psychological therapy.
  • 44% of men in mid-life who died by suicide had previously self-harmed, 7% in the week prior to death.
  • 34% of men in our study appear to have been affected by bereavement, 6% by suicide bereavement.
  • 15% of men who died by suicide had used the internet in ways that were suicide-related, most often searching for information about suicide methods.

We often hear that men don’t seek help, but as the data above shows that is simply not the case in many cases, and as the report suggests it’s too simplistic to say men do not seek help. If I am reading correctly they do, although not always because of how they are truly feeling.

For me this report is something of an eye opener, and I hope as it becomes more widely circulated so that all services can collaborate and implement more recognition for potential red flags and sign-posting that will potentially offer life saving interventions.