Middle-aged men from disadvantaged backgrounds are 10 times more likely to die by suicide because they have lost their masculine pride and identity, a study found.
The report, commissioned by helpline charity Samaritans, explored the reasons for suicide beyond mental health problems in men aged in their 30s, 40s and 50s.
Some 525 people died from suicide in Ireland last year, up from 486 in 2010, with men accounting for 84%.
The Men and Suicide report revealed men compare themselves against a “gold standard” which measures power, control and invincibility.
And if they feel they are not meeting this standard, which is set from a previous working class generation, they feel a sense of shame, which can lead to suicidal thoughts.
Brendan Kennelly, a lecturer from NUI Galway who took part in the study, said the report shows that people on low income and who are unemployed are at a higher than average risk of suicide.
“While exceptions can be found in some studies, the balance of the empirical evidence is that, controlling for other risk factors such as the presence of psychiatric illnesses, being unemployed, having low income, or living in a socio-economically deprived area increase the risk of dying by suicide,” he said.
More than 308,000 people are out of work in Ireland, with 60% jobless for more than a year.
The unemployment rate for men is 17.8%.
Samaritans found that, on average, about 3,000 middle-aged men across the UK and Ireland take their own lives each year and that men from deprived areas were 10 times more likely to die by suicide than men from high socio-economic backgrounds living in the most affluent areas.
Anyone in crisis should visit www.samaritans.ie or call 1850 60 90 90.
The report stated men in mid-life are now part of the “buffer” generation, not sure whether to be like their older, more traditional, strong, silent, austere fathers or like their younger, more progressive, individualistic sons.
“The changing nature of the labour market over the last 60 years has affected working class men,” it said.
“With the decline of traditional male industries, they have lost not only their jobs but also a source of masculine pride and identity.”
Lack of companionship can also contributes the high suicide rate in this group, the research found.
Suzanne Costello, director of Samaritans in Ireland, said men are often criticised for being reluctant to talk about their problems and for not seeking help.
“With this in mind, we need to acknowledge that men are different to women and design services to meet their needs, so they can be more effective,” she said.
“The role of mental health problems in suicide is well-established and must not be ignored. But we also need to look at the economic and social inequalities that contribute to people wanting to take their own lives.
“Policy-makers and practitioners need to take forward our recommendations from the report as a matter of urgency.”
Samaritans is calling on the Government, statutory services health, and relevant NGOs to recognise the heightened risk of suicide among disadvantaged men in mid-life, treating suicide as a health and social inequality.