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7 Sep, 2016

Survey: Male suicide rate thrice as high as women, but help is available

LONDON, September 5, 2016 /PRNewswire/ The Hunting Dynasty media release — Men kill themselves at a rate of 3:1 relative to women of any age (ONS, 2015). Yet, men are less likely than women to actively seek help. The common misconception is that men don’t want to talk. This is wrong – the messages by all and any suicide phoneline campaigns are not talking correctly to men – we know from our psychology study that men are most receptive to conversation when it is framed as a step to a goal, rather than any other approach, such as ‘just talk to us’ messages.

We had 114 men, aged between 20 and 75 take part in our online attitude, intention, and understanding questionnaire study. All participants answered the same set of questions about four posters targeted at men with mental health issues. Two of the posters were genuine campaign posters (Samaritans, Calm) depicting an individual figure, while the remaining two were created for the purpose of the study, and highlight group belonging and support.

Three dimensions were explored:

  • Factors behind a convincing poster
  • The most encouraging poster taglines
  • And general responsiveness to conversation versus action-based encouragement

The results suggest that a convincing message relies on a combination of characteristics, including relatability, connection to anxiety, belief in change, and an outcome-focused call-to-action in form of a simple command. A sub-group of younger men was found to be more responsive to group posters. Finally, conversation and a goal-oriented, problem-solving approach were not mutually exclusive (with a slight preference for the latter), suggesting that men are likely to be the most receptive to conversation when it is framed as a step to a goal.

Lina Skora, Behavioural Scientist at The Hunting Dynasty – the agency that funded the research – and author and speaker on emotion and behaviour says:

1. “Help services could be doing much more to encourage men to reach out. I can understand where they’re coming from now – showing understanding, recognising loneliness, anxiety, depression. And while we found these to be important components of effective messages, they’re by no means sufficient, and can actually be even more isolating on their own. A substantial group of men could be deterred from calling a helpline because of it. The current approach is not exhausting the possibilities.”

2. Men do face a different set of challenges than women when it comes to psychological well-being, and we need to recognise that. If there’s anywhere the gender-blind approach is failing, this is it.”

Oliver Payne, Founder of The Hunting Dynasty, says:

1. “Men don’t like to talk? That’s not what our research says – they do like to talk, just not in the way current suicide language is used to drive men to phone suicide helplines. It pains me to see ‘wrong’ messaging whenever I walk around.”

2. “Those who conceive, and commission, messages for suicide helplines are doing it for the right reasons. But, even a cursory glance at the existing psychological research would tell the marketing firms and officers they’re on the wrong foot – and at least should give pause for thought, even if they can’t plan and write a robust psychological study like we did to find the solution.”


This study was presented at the 3rd Annual Male Psychology Conference, London in June 2016: http://www.malepsychology.org.uk/male-psychology-conference

For further information, please contactOliver Payne | Founding Director, The Hunting Dynasty oliver@thehuntingdynasty.com

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