In the news – Is machismo the cause of the male suicide emergency?

Now if you can get past the political rancour in this article from the Daily Telegraph there are some very good points. Plus, yet more shocking statistics.

Labour leader Jeremy Corbyn says Britain is too macho and it’s causing men to commit suicide, but maybe he’s not man enough to tackle men’s issues, writes Glen Poole

Jeremy Corbyn declared his concern for the high male suicide rate during a visit to a mental health hospital in Liverpool last week.

The Labour leader, who is rapidly becoming a beta male icon, said that the problem arises because women are prepared to speak out, but our macho culture stops men from doing the same.

While it is great news to see leading politicians raising the issue of male suicide, there is a tragic irony behind Corbyn’s words, namely that the party founded for the working man has been mute on the subject of men’s issues for decades.

Rightly or wrongly, the left has given us a brave new world of women’s ministers, women-only shortlists, an annual women’s conference, a manifesto for women and the #WomanToWoman pink bus.

In the process, Labour has become not so much a party of One Nation but a party of One Gender and any attempt to bring men’s issues to the table have been fiercely resisted.

When the recent recession hit Britain, for example, the number of men in work fell between 2008 and 2012 at nearly 50 times the rate for women, leaving us with 387,000 fewer men in the workplace compared with 8,000 fewer women. Around the same time (2008 to 2010), researchers estimated there were more than 1,000 additional suicides as a result of the recession and that 84pc of those who killed themselves were men.

So what did Labour do to “speak out” for these working men whose lives were devastated by the economic pressures of unemployment?

The answer is: nothing. They were as silent as a suicidal man unable to find the words to put his emotional distress into language.

Instead, when it came to gender issues, Labour and its friends on the left flooded the media with a deluge of messages about Cameron’s “women trouble”, claiming there was a “war on women” and telling us it was “raining men in the Tory party” so heavily that we needed to send out “a life raft for women’s equality”.

Not that The Conservatives have done any better. They may have more male ministers in the cabinet, but they haven’t got any men’s ministers.

In politics, the battle of the sexes is fought on the basis of which party is doing the most for one gender: women. For its part, the Conservative party also has policies for women, a women’s minister and a leader who employed a women’s advisor.

When it comes to gender politics it’s constantly raining women, leaving men without a lifebelt, caught between the rocks of the traditional, socially conservative desire to protect women and children and the hard place that is the progressive, socially liberal drive to champion women and girls.

So Jeremy Corbyn deserves credit for daring to mention male suicide. However, his soundbite theory that “macho culture” is the problem and “speaking out” is the cure, doesn’t stand scrutiny.
There is plenty of evidence to suggest that for some men, being a straightforward, ordinary bloke is a perfectly good defence against suicide. Being able to take on the provider and protector role, with a wife and kids, gives these men the security and responsibility of having a family to look out for.

Having a home, money, social bonds and a purpose in life can be the foundations for a man’s mental wellbeing. Such men will develop a range of healthy coping mechanisms at times of stress and distress, such as sport, exercise, hobbies, listening to music and of course, retiring to a real or metaphorical shed.

These men may be part of the “macho culture” that Jeremy Corbyn dislikes, but their “keep calm and carry on” approach to manhood works for them and we should honour and respect that.

As the Samaritans said in their Men and Suicide report, “men as a group are often criticised for being resistant to seeking help or talking about their feelings. We need to move from blaming men for not being like women, to recognising their needs.”

Of course for some suicidal men, finding someone to talk to will make all the difference. As a society we need to make it as easy as possible for those men to talk, by supporting services like the male suicide prevention charity CALM UK.

But it’s not a “macho culture” that prevents men from “speaking out”; it’s a culture that isn’t yet “man enough” to listen and respond to men’s needs.

All the research tells us there are multiple factors that make men of all backgrounds more vulnerable to suicide. They include exclusion from school, poor education, unemployment, low income, fatherlessness, relationship breakdown, separation from your kids, homelessness, imprisonment, substance abuse, being a victim of violence and abuse, mental health problems and a lack of male-friendly services.

All of these issues disproportionately impact men and boys. They are men’s issues. Issues that men and women in power across all political parties stubbornly refuse to talk about, as we saw in the recent blocking of a men’s issues debate in parliament on International Men’s Day.

If some of the most powerful men and women in the county are so unwilling or unable to talk about men’s issues, why on Earth are we surprised when the most disempowered and distressed men in the country don’t speak out?

One of the biggest barriers that stands in the way of us creating a society where men and boys in need are equally capable of getting help as women and girls, is the one gender approach of our political classes, shaped by the false belief that when it comes to gender issues, women have problems and men are the problem.

If women’s ministers, women and equality committees, women’s policies, women’s manifestos and International Women’s Day debates are the right way to tackle the issues that women and girls face, why do we deny men and boys the same support and then point the finger at men when we struggle to get help?

13 men will kill themselves in the UK today, if we think “speaking out” would have helped them, then we need people in power, like Corbyn and Cameron, to be “man enough” to “speak out” about men’s issues, starting with International Men’s Day on 19th November.
Read the article here: http://www.telegraph.co.uk/men/thinking-man/11983628/Is-machismo-the-cause-of-the-male-suicide-emergency.html

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