Latest statistics show that the number of male suicides in Singapore is double that of women.
Mental health experts are not surprised by this finding. Men are generally less willing to express their vulnerabilities. They usually feel it’s not manly to be sharing their feelings or problems.
Suicide prevention service Samaritans of Singapore (SOS) said 239 men committed suicide in 2017, compared with 122 women.
The majority of the men were 60 years old or older.
• Men are often reluctant to openly discuss their health or how they feel about the impact of significant life events;
• Men are more reluctant to take action when they don’t feel physically or mentally well, and;
• Men engage in more risky activities that are harmful to their health.
These behaviours are strongly linked to adherence to some harmful aspects of traditional masculinity. Men often feel pressure to appear strong and stoic, and talking about feeling mentally or physically unwell can be perceived as weakness. By allowing negative and harmful aspects of masculinity to be considered the norm, men feel there’s only one way they can be considered “manly”.
How to prevent it?
Use the ALEC model
Start by asking how he’s feeling. It’s worth mentioning any changes you’ve picked up on: has he stopped replying to texts? Does he sound different on the phone? Has he gone quiet in the group chat? Use a prompt like,”You haven’t seemed yourself lately – are you feeling OK?”
Trust your instinct. Remember, people often say “I’m fine” when they’re not, so don’t be afraid to ask twice.
You can use something specific you’ve noticed, like, “It’s just that you haven’t been replying to my texts, and that’s not like you.”
Give him your full attention. Let him know you’re hearing what he’s saying and you’re not judging. You don’t have to diagnose problems or offer solutions, but asking questions lets him know you’re listening. Ask a question like, “That can’t be easy – how long have you felt this way?”
Help him focus on simple things that might improve how he feels. Is he getting enough sleep? Is he exercising and eating well? Maybe there’s something that’s helped him in the past – it’s worth asking. Suggest that he share how he’s feeling with others he trusts. This will make things easier for both of you. And if he’s felt low for more than two weeks, suggest that he chat to his doctor.
Follow up your conversation with a phone call or FaceTime. This helps to show that you care; plus, you’ll get a feel for whether he’s feeling any better.
Where to seek help?
Samaritans of Singapore: 1800-221-4444
Singapore Association for Mental Health: 1800-283-7019
Institute of Mental Health’s Mental Health Helpline: 6389-2222
Care Corner Counselling Centre (Mandarin): 1800-353-5800
Shan You Counselling Centre (Mandarin): 6741-0078
Silver Ribbon: 6386-1928
Tinkle Friend: 1800-274-4788
Start a conversation with your friends and loved ones. Create awareness. Encourage those at risk to seek help. Together we can help to reduce deaths among men from the above conditions.