A new survey commissioned by Samaritans released today (19 March) shows that there is still a stigma around men seeking help when they are struggling to cope.
More than a third of men in Scotland (36%) aged 20-59 do not seek support when they need to because they prefer to solve their problems themselves. The survey also showed that men often don’t want to feel like a burden and don’t feel their problems will be understood.
Samaritans is launching a campaign, supported by National Rail, called Real People, Real Stories. The campaign sees men who have overcome tough times sharing their stories to encourage other men, aged 20-59 -years, who are most at risk of suicide, to seek help by contacting Samaritans 24/7 free on 116 123 or at samaritans.org.
James Jopling, Executive Director of Samaritans Scotland, said: “It’s clear that too many men in Scotland continue to struggle alone. While our survey found 80% of men in Scotland say it’s ok to admit you’re not feeling okay, many still avoid speaking out when they’re finding life tough. A quarter of men in Scotland said they felt their problems weren’t important enough to warrant calling a helpline, which is one of the reasons this awareness campaign is so important.
“By sharing positive and hopeful stories, we want to send the message to men in Scotland, that whatever they’re going through, they don’t need to face it on their own. Speaking openly and honestly about what you’re experiencing – whether it’s with a loved one, a friend or through a confidential and non-judgemental service like Samaritans – can make real difference.”
In the survey, men in Scotland cited a number of reasons why they’ve struggled in the past including debt or financial worries (28%), relationship breakdown or family problems (28%), loneliness or isolation (23%) and job loss or job-related problems (22%).
Current Kilmarnock and former Scotland striker, Kris Boyd, who lost his brother to suicide, is backing the campaign. He says: “There is still a lot of stigma that can make it hard for men to open up about mental health. My experience losing my brother to suicide has made me more determined to do what I can to encourage others to reach out when they’re struggling.
“And we can all be a part of making that change, by taking the time to talk when we’re struggling or when we know someone who is, by being that listening ear or a shoulder to lean on. I hope that by sharing my story I can let other men know, you don’t have to struggle alone.”
Tony Robertson, 38, suffered from undiagnosed depression for most of his life. Tony struggled to cope when he lost his job, his home and partner, and attempted to take his own life. “I was in my hospital bed the morning after and I saw my mum sat there upset, and something clicked. I started talking to my mum about how I was feeling. I think having that human connection really does bring that home. I hope by sharing my story as part of the campaign, it will encourage other men to speak up and seek help before getting to the stage that I got to. Talking really can save lives.”
Eddie Carmichael, a volunteer with Samaritans in Edinburgh, has seen the power of listening from both sides, having become a listening volunteer after Samaritans supported him through a difficult time. He says: “In the middle of the night, I reached out and made contact with Samaritans and found that there was someone who was there for me, who listened without judging and who provided me with time and emotional space for me to begin to find my own way forward. That encounter always felt pivotal for me in finding my own way out of that very dark time.
“Seven years ago, in a very different frame of mind, I began training as a Samaritan. I know, both from the perspective of someone who was himself listened to and as someone who now listens as a Samaritan volunteer, how powerful the act of listening with empathy and without judging can be. It can help simply to get through the next minutes or hours and, sometimes, it can help someone to find a way to make a much more transformative change.”
The campaign will have a presence in some of Scotland’s major train stations, with additional posters in Glasgow and Dundee.
Find out more about Real People, Real Stories where you will find real stories from real men who have been through tough times. You can also support by following the campaign on Instagram or sharing the video on Twitter or Facebook or using the hashtag #RealPeopleRealStories.
For more information, images or to arrange an interview contact Mairi Gordon, Communication and Policy Officer by email or call 07483027847.
Notes to Editors
- The online survey was conducted by Atomik Research among 3,000, 18+ years old men in UK, of which 2,040 were men aged 20-59 from England, Scotland and Wales, including 510 men in Scotland. The research fieldwork took place between 28 February- 6 March 2019. The survey carries an error rate of +/-2% at a 95% confidence level. The dataset was weighted to ensure national representation by age and region. Atomik Research is an independent creative market research agency that employs MRS-certified researchers and abides to MRS code.
- Suicide is a complex issue resulting from a wide range of psychological, social, economic and cultural risk factors which interact and increase an individual’s level of risk.
- In the UK men remain three times as likely to take their own lives than women. In 2017, the male suicide rate was more than three times higher than the female rate. Middle aged men are at greatest risk of suicide. Looking at broad age groups men aged 45-59 years have the highest rate of suicide, followed by men aged 30-44. For further information see Samaritans Report Men and Suicide: Why it’s a social issue report.
- Suicide is not equal – Men in the lowest social class, living in the most deprived areas, are up to ten times more at risk of suicide than those in the highest social class, living in the most affluent areas.
- Due to the link between certain types of media reporting and increases in suicide rates, please note Samaritans’ Media Guidelines for Reporting Suicide and Rail Suicide factsheet.
- Real People, Real Stories is supported by National Rail as part of an overall programme of activity.
- Information and support for those struggling to cope can be found at samaritans.org.
- Anyone can contact Samaritans for free in confidence any time from any phone on 116 123, even a mobile without credit, and the number won’t show up on your phone bill. Or email [email protected] or go to www.samaritans.org to find details of your nearest branch where you can talk to one of their trained volunteers face to face.
 ONS. (2018). Suicides in the United Kingdom, 2017 registrations. United Kingdom: Office for National Statistics.
2 Platt S, Bambra C, Cairns J, Chandler A, Heins E, Kirtley O, et al. Socioeconomic disadvantage and suicidal behaviour. Research report. Surrey, United Kingdom: Samaritans; 2017.