Suicide, the buffer generation and the need to talk

The biggest killer of men under 45 isn’t heart disease or cancer or accidents on the road, it is suicide. It affects far more men than women and the whole thing is both excruciatingly painful and taboo.

I watched a fascinating documentary entitled Professor Green: Suicide and Me and what came through is perhaps what we might suspect – men struggle to talk about their emotions and feel that is isn’t allowed in society – it isn’t ‘manly’, and consequently, all the emotion is bottled up until they can’t cope any more.

But what I didn’t know is that 20 years ago, suicide was more prevalent in young men, now it is middle-aged men that are more at risk. In other words, it is the same generation of men, born in the 1950s and 60s – who have been dubbed ‘The Buffer Generation’. In an article in the Telegraph, the dilemma is presented like this by a Professor O’Connor who does research into this area:

“Middle aged men are caught between two generations – when you look at their own models, their fathers, it was about not talking about their emotions,” he said.

“But when you look at their sons, they are much more at ease with talking about their emotions and seeking help.

“Society has moved on but middle aged men are not as equipped as they should be with dealing with changes in their role in society.”

“It is a good thing of course that there is more equality now but arguably in this age group men are not equipped to deal with the change in their social roles.”

Whatever the problems are, it appears that the answer is to talk about these things, to stop the taboo, both to help those who are suicidal and to comfort those who have lost someone in this tragic way.

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