Trigger warning: Article contains themes of suicide. The silent crisis affecting men across the globe and the impact of ingrained gender stereotypes.
Read Time: 5 Mins
During 2018 Spain saw twice as many suicides as car accidents, between 3500-4000 a year, with 8000 needing hospital treatment. It took until that same year for a prevention policy to be proposed, right now the statistics remain unflinchingly stable whilst cancer and terminal illness statistics have progressively reduced.
Unfortunately, the gender split reflects the global norm, with men being 3 times more likely to be affected with the hardest hit being men over 70 (917 in 2016 according to INE). The question that needs addressing is, what can be done to change this?
It is estimated that 34% of suicides followed an eviction. A staggering figure which prompts the need for discussion surrounding how costly a toll a socio-economic downturn can have on the mental health of a working man.
A study on mental health taken during the economic crisis of 2010 in Spain revealed that figures increased greatly among working age men, but not among women. This was echoed in the UK, which saw an indisputable trend of increasingly deteriorating mental health in those most affected by the economic downturn between the period 1991–2010.
Although, within the UK the male decline was not entirely uniform. A greater concentration was observed among men aged 35 to 54 (with a relative increase of 26%), with manual occupations (22%), primary or secondary education (28%), and among immigrants (33%). Showing a glaring and significant increase in health inequalities between socio-economic levels.
This vein of research has been continuously tackled over the last decade. Xavier Bartoll, first author of the SOPHIE project that was run to evaluate the impact of structural policies on health inequalities, stated back in 2012:
“While the economy is still not recovering, long‐term unemployment increases, and cutbacks on public programs of social protection occurred even after the last survey, one may not expect improvement.”
The SOPHIE project explained how blatantly clear the deterioration in mental health among men could not be separated from the economic crisis in Spain, and by extension across the globe. Especially among those from low socioeconomic position. This isn’t set to change anytime soon.
The discussions around mental health need to adapt to the modern challenges we face. Starting with the acknowledgement that an intergenerational dialogue is essential. Especially as there is evidence to support that the pressure of male mental stoicism may still be prevalent in our younger generations today.
Dr Hallin, an owner of mental health centres across Southern Spain had this to say:
“We have to start valuing our mental health and investing in it. When there’s diabetes in the family, you’re more aware of what you eat. It should be the same for mental illnesses, it’s genetic.”
During his time working in Madrid Dr Hallin said that half of the young people who attempted suicide never saw a mental health nurse. In 2018 Spain saw 12 deaths among children under 15 years of age, and 247 who were under 30.
Again, we can see parallels in the UK, in 2017 there were 177 suicides among 15 to 19-year-olds, compared with 110 in 2010 – figures which have risen almost every year, according to the UK Office of National Statistics.
It is time to consider that the belief that mental insecurity should not be addressed but endured may remain embedded in our younger generations. Until amenities improve, seeking professional help is a provision that may not be available for all, Dr Hallin went on to say:
“The Spanish mental health system is problematic, unless you are dying they won’t see you – that’s a luxury they cannot afford. They don’t have enough resources.”
An open clear route to support needs to be established to all those struggling with their mental health, despite the lack of resources available.
It is safe to say that a two-way relationship exists between mental health disorders and social implications, as poor mental health can aggravate personal choices and affect living conditions that limit opportunities.
Promoting access to educational and employment opportunities, healthy food, secure housing, and safe neighbourhoods is crucial. It needs to be recognized that healthcare systems must treat the whole person, not just the illness.
Although structural inequalities in our institutional systems evidently need addressing. It stands to reason that having the comfortability to reach out to those closest to you, safely and candidly to start this essential discussion at home is key.
With the world currently holding its breath, waiting for the economic effects of the pandemic to catch up. Now is the time to have these conversations. Open intergenerational dialogues need to become the norm. Not only for the benefit of the next generation but also the older generations, who may have carried the weight of their internal struggle throughout their adult lives.
This article was submitted by one of our community members, Richard Weare.
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