Die like a man! The role of masculinity in middle aged male suicide
In 2015, male suicide was reported at its highest rate for the previous 14 years, with more men in the 45-59 age range killing themselves since 1981. Of all suicides in 2013, 78% of them were men. Nearly four times as many men as women were killing themselves and this report further indicated that most, for the first time, were now doing it in middle age.
In speaking to those men within the specified age group who have seriously considered suicide or survived a suicide attempt, this study examines the extent to which conceptions of masculinity influence suicidal behaviour in middle aged men. It looks at how personal notions of what it is to be a man affect one’s capacity for emotional expression and whether this conception influences a decision to seriously consider ending their own lives.
Data was collected through ethnographic fieldwork and unstructured interviews. The fieldwork sought to contextualise ideas of masculinity and masculine behaviour within an interactive setting, this being a local men’s Shed Group. From here I examined how emotional expression was made manifest between these men. The interviews were designed to allow for the men to speak in their own voice, recounting their thoughts and feelings surrounding their considerations of suicide.
This study aims to add to a currently limited body of research that qualitatively addresses the relationship between men’s emotional lives and suicidal behaviour. This approach responds, I feel, to a number of requests in recent years to a better understanding of how the role of masculinity, as understood both individually and by society, impacts upon men’s emotional experiences and the means by which they seek, or fail, to express them.