Coroner raises concerns about male suicide rates

Norfolk's coroner William Armstrong.

Norfolk's coroner William Armstrong. - Credit: Archant

A coroner has raised concerns about male suicide rates and called on men with mental health issues to seek help rather than suffer in silence.

Three times more men commit suicide than women, and experts say one of the main reasons is that men don't talk about their feelings or seek help when they need it.

Norfolk coroner William Armstrong was speaking after the death of a 25-year-old man who hanged himself after becomming depressed, yet who had never sought help for his illness.

Peter Hodges, from Pleasant Place, Beccles, died on March 11. His body was found hanging at a wooded area in Suffolk.

Yesterday's Norwich inquest heard Mr Hodges had recently split from his wife, and was having trouble coping.

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His sister Clare Jameson told the inquest: 'I believe that he had some form of depression, but he never sought help. To me he put on a front, but I could see that he was down. He was not one for showing his feelings.

'But he was a very bubbly person. Friends always said he was a joker and that he seemed to love life.'

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After recording a verdict of suicide, Norfolk coroner William Armstrong said: 'Although Clare said that Peter was suffering from depression, which I'm sure was true, and he was having major issues in his life to cope with, unfortunately, he did not seek out help.

'That's the tragedy of this matter. Sadly, it's often the case with men, who do not open up their feelings, and are much more likely to take their own lives than women.'

Afterwards, Mr Armstrong reiterated his concerns and said more needed to be done to encourage men who were suffering from depression or feeling suicidal to open up.

He said: 'Men are sometimes unable to express their feelings to anybody else, and do not seek help. We need to do more to encourage men to seek out help, because help is available.'

Dr Roger Kingerlee, clinical psychologist at Norfolk and Suffolk NHS Foundation Trust, said: 'It is well established that men are reluctant to come forward with both physical and psychological issues. This delay can be unhelpful particularly if symptoms get worse.

'However, much more is now known about the psychology of boys and men. This means that there is now an ever-increasing chance that difficulties can be spotted and picked up earlier because GPs and other health professionals are better informed.'

Suicide is one of the biggest killers of men in the UK and has been rising since 2001. Statistics released earlier this year showed that the highest suicide rate is among men aged 30-44, in men aged 45 to 59 suicide has increased significantly between 2007 and 2011, and in 2011 more men under 35 died from suicide in the UK than road accidents, murder and HIV/Aids combined.

Even in the 60+ age group, men were three times more likely to take their lives than women.

Concerns at the imbalance between the number of men committing suicide compared to women were raised earlier this year by the group Calm - the Campaign Against Living Miserably - which aims to combat male suicide in the UK. The campaign claimed the Department of Health was failing to recognise the problem.

But Care and support minister Norman Lamb, MP for North Norfolk, said: 'One life taken by suicide is one too many and we know that men are three times more likely to commit suicide than women. That's why we have developed a national suicide prevention strategy, which identifies men, in particular, as of high risk.

'We want to help young people who experience a mental health problem and are spending over £50 million to boost their access to psychological therapies so they don't suffer in silence.

'I am also very determined to improve the standards of response services for those facing a mental health crisis. At present, it is too variable. Services must be of the same standard as emergency services for those with physical health problems. We are developing clear guidelines about what crisis response services should be available in very part of the country.'

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