Why I am done arguing about International Men’s Day


There is a lot of confusion around International Men’s Day, starting with what it is. Nobody seems quite sure. Is it an event? A celebration? An awareness day? An occasion? I can clear that one up straight away. In practice it is none of those things. International Men’s Day is an argument.

It is, uniquely, the only argument on the calendar.  Like so many annual diary dates, it comes with its own rituals and its own traditions. Who doesn’t remember the thrill of waking up on IMD morning and eagerly ripping the wrapping on the first exchange of the day?

“Happy International Men’s Day everyone”

“Huhuhuh, I thought every day was International Men’s Day.”

“Hey, men have problems too you know.”

“Aww diddums, but What About Teh Menz?”

“Fuck you. Look everyone, this is a typical feminist laughing when men DIE.”

And then the participants turn back to soak up the applause of their own side, gurning with smug pride at their great achievement before their next team member steps forward to repeat the exact ritual, and so it continues until the time zones of the planet have rolled around and everyone can go back to bed.

Just like Christmas and Valentine’s Day, the great International Men’s Day argument seems to start earlier every year. This year it kicked off about three weeks ago with the ignominious spat between MPs Jess Phillips and Philip Davies, stirred by the helpful and inevitable volley of abuse, rape jokes and death threats from the misogosphere. The dust had barely settled on that one when the University of York somehow contrived to preside over a monumental clusterfuck of announcements and cancellations and accompanying media brouhaha.

Well stick a fork in it and turn it over, this one is done.

I, for one, have had enough. November 19th is International Men’s Day, as it has been for many years, because millions of people around the world have agreed to adopt it as such. This is not up for debate, this is not up for discussion, it is a simple fact that does not need to be argued any more. All that remains to be discussed is what, individually or collectively, we want to do with the date when it arrives.

Invitation to an argument
Personally my attention will be shared between two focal points this year. The first is on male suicide, primarily supporting the efforts of CALM to raise awareness and consideration through the #BiggerIssues campaign. If you are a social media user and have not yet signed up to their Thunderclap, aiming to get the issue of male suicide trending worldwide throughout IMD, then you can do so here. It only takes a minute. I will also be following and discussing the first ever dedicated debate on suicide as a male gender issue in Parliament, a fantastic example of what can come about when people decide to stop arguing for a moment and make an effort to produce something constructive.

Secondly, I shall be doing my best to highlight and publicise the chronic underfunding of long-term support and counselling for male victims of rape and sexual violence. Yesterday a new report produced by London Assembly member Kemi Badenoch and supported by the charity Survivors UK detailed just how desperate the situation is. Over the past four years in the UK, an estimated 679,051 sexual assaults and rapes of males took place. 652,568 were not reported to police. While men in London can access immediate trauma support and other crisis support from the gender-inclusive services at The Havens, there is next to nothing in the way of long-term recovery assistance and specialist counselling. The Mayor’s office funds four separate women-only services through Rape Crisis centres (itself a paltry, grossly inadequate number) but none at all for male victims.  [As an aside, there is an outstanding article in Huffington Post about this issue this week]

There are countless other causes which supporters of IMD will be or could be highlighting throughout the day. International Men’s Day is open to everyone. People, organisations and institutions can use it howsoever they wish. MRA organisations like Justice For Men and Boys are involved (this year organising an anti-circumcision protest at Parliament) and so too are feminist organisations like White Ribbon, using it to highlight issues of male violence, whether against women and children or other men. Councils and workplaces mark the event with health check promotions or publicity stalls. Corporations are involved, sometimes shamelessly and self-interestedly hijacking the wave for marketing purposes, sometimes – as with Lynx deodorant’s sponsorship of CALM’s day of action – in a generally constructive and appropriate way.  Schools, such as Parrs Wood Academy, just down the road from me in Manchester, are hosting debates or events. Many others – the vast majority of course – will do absolutely nothing to mark IMD, and that too is entirely their privilege. Attendance and participation are not mandatory.

There is however one thing which I vow not to do on International Men’s Day. I will not allow myself to be sucked into arguments about its validity or need. It feels like I and other advocates for men’s issues have spent too much of the last 10 years on the defensive, justifying the existence of IMD rather demonstrating its value. Starting tomorrow morning, I will not be rising and responding to taunts, jeers or jokes. I will inevitably see the tweets and status updates mocking IMD and I shall quietly pity their ill-informed ignorance or the pride they take in a shortfall in empathy and compassion, I might even treat myself to a slow shake of the head, but I will not argue. Anyone who comes at me directly in search of an argument will leave disappointed. When producers of radio shows or commissioning editors of websites ask me if I can contribute to a debate about whether we need International Men’s Day, I shall reply no, I cannot, although I will happily tell your audience why we need accountability attached to suicide prevention policies or why we need long-term trauma counselling to be provided for male rape victims.

I believe International Men’s Day is a rare opportunity to not only highlight some of the gender-specific issues faced by men and boys in our society, but to join the dots between them, teasing out the common threads between, for example, economic and educational marginalisation of boys and criminality of male youth, men’s under-engagement with health services, over-dependence on alcohol and drugs and the ongoing crisis of suicide rates or enduring violence and so on and so on. There is a lot there to be said. There is a lot to be discussed.

Today, like every day, men and boys are needlessly suffering, needlessly failing, needlessly hurting, needlessly dying. There is one day per year made available for that conversation, spending it in spiteful, self-indulgent, performative  and self-referential arguments is a luxury we simply do not have.

Comments

  1. says

    A very thoughtful way of looking at IMD, Ally, and I applaud you for taking the high ground. If only other people, particularly on both sides of the debate, were to do the same…ah, well. I’ll give that Thunderclap a look.

  2. Archy says

    “White Ribbon, using it to highlight issues of male violence, whether against women and children or other men. ”

    White Ribbon yet again hijacking a day about men to make it about women’s issues? We don’t need some silly men=bad bandwagon on IMD, we need discussion about men’s and boys issues without reframing it for how it harms women.

    Male suicide is definitely a big issue, especially with recent droughts and other hardships for farmers in Australia and other places which heavily increase the risk of suicide.

  3. Ally Fogg says

    I’m not the biggest fan of White Ribbon for a variety of reasons, but there is absolutely no escaping that men’s use of violence is one of the most serious and pressing health and social issue for men ourselves, never mind women & kids.

    Bottom line is that there were more than 450,000 homicides globally last year, 95% of the killers male, so too were 80% of the victims – that is 360,000 dead men and boys. In England and Wales, 800,000 adult men are injured in a violent attack each year and about 600,000 of those are injured by other men. There are something like 40,000 men in prison today as a consequence of their own violent behaviour.

    If you don’t think those are issues worthy of consideration, you really don’t care about men’s health and welfare.

  4. Ally Fogg says

    …and to add, sorry, the point is that IMD is absolutely open to anyone to air their concerns for men and boys, whatever they may be.

  5. Lesbian Catnip says

    Ally, I don’t know how you deal with your own commentariat sometimes. “Men should be involved in the discussion of violence issues” somehow gets conflated with “men=bad.” As I’ve said before, thanks for keeping straw farmers in business, I guess.

    *facepalm*

    I’m glad you’re using the day to highlight male victims of sexual violence and the high incidences of completed male suicides. If it makes you feel any better, the province I live in is passing new laws that overhaul domestic violence legislation, and not once in the bill is there named a man or woman.

  6. That Guy says

    Good Post Ally, completely on board with using the day to demonstrate it’s value rather than ‘cyber fite day’.

    I think this is an issue in general with ‘mens issues’ is whenever raised, like by Phillip Hammond, it’s rarely because people give a shit, but rather because they want a big stick to beat people with.

  7. StillGjenganger says

    @LesbianCatnip 5
    Not hard to see where that one came from. A superficial look at the white ribbon campaign gave me the general impression that ‘Men are the problem – women are the victims – men must dedicate their lives to make the world better for women’. Maybe a more in-depth analysis would give a different view, but I never felt the need to do a more in-depth analysis.

    Anyway,that is not what we should be discussing. Just saying that there could be reasons why a number of men are not immediately impressed by the white ribbon stuff.

  8. Ally Fogg says

    Yeah, I really don’t want this to become about White Ribbon, but FWIW my own take is that actually the organisation{s} and people involved are not that superficial and lightweight, I think the presentation and marketing of it always feels wrong to me, I’m not sure it achieves anything beyond making those involved feel good about themselves.

    But THE POINT IS…. I unreservedly welcome their participation in IMD along with everyone else across the spectrum.

  9. Lesbian Catnip says

    Whether an organization is implying that men are “the problem,” is separate from the observation that 90-95% of violent crimes are perpetrated by men. Violence is the problem. I think we can all agree that should necessitate men as participants of “violence is the problem” discussions, which shouldn’t include any weird denials of a reasonably procured statistic. Ally posted a few links about that too.

    In other words, “Why are most violent offenders men?” Is not “Why are most men violent offenders?” Conflating which conversation is actually being had is why I typically tap out.

  10. StillGjenganger says

    @Lesbian Catnip 9
    I could come with an answer or two. But in deference to the declared topic of this post, I think we should leave it till another time.

  11. David S says

    @Ally

    The first is on male suicide, primarily supporting the efforts of CALM to raise awareness and consideration through the #BiggerIssues campaign.

    Well no one sensible could complain about efforts to reduce the rate of male suicide. However I wonder if, paradoxically, the best way to do it might be to raise awareness of rates of female suicide. The point is that this is the statistic that is changing. Male suicide rates haven’t shifted much in the past three decades, whereas female ones have declined dramatically (at least if you are talking about completed suicides). I’m not sure that anyone knows why the female rate has fallen, and I’ve a suspicion that if we did know, then we would know something that would be useful to both genders.

    Data (slightly out of date) here:
    http://www.ons.gov.uk/ons/publications/re-reference-tables.html?edition=tcm%3A77-332358

  12. Ally Fogg says

    You’re quite right David.

    Part of the reason for that is medical, doctors have got much, much better at saving lives of people who have taken overdoses, which is much more commonly used by women than men.

    But there is no doubt it is also social and it is a vivid illustration that suicide rates are not an unavoidable, unchangeable fact of nature but highly reactive to social change.

  13. Spoonwood says

    “In other words, “Why are most violent offenders men?” Is not “Why are most men violent offenders?””

    Yes, but neither is “why are most victims of violence men?”

  14. Archy says

    “If you don’t think those are issues worthy of consideration, you really don’t care about men’s health and welfare.”

    ” “Men should be involved in the discussion of violence issues” somehow gets conflated with “men=bad.” ”

    There’s no straw being farmed here today. The issues are worthy of discussion, White Ribbon campaign however isn’t the framework to do it with. Hence why I said “without REFRAMING it for how it harms women”. Stealing the focus away from the men and boys. That’s the problem. There are others also who write on IMD about domestic violence against women. The wrong day to focus on women, that is all.

    Whataboutthemenz gets huge annoyance from many women on International Women’s Day, the reverse is true on IMD. Sure White Ribbon can talk about it, just don’t derail it to be whataboutthewomenz and use the womengetitworse trope.

    Michael Kaufman, cofounder of White Ribbon, and Gary Barker wrote an article on “International Men’s Day: When 365 Days Just Aren’t Enough” which doesn’t seem very supportive of the day.

    @7 StillGjenganger
    Bang on. I’m not saying it to start a fight, I just don’t want the day derailed with issues of women being pushed forward above men’s when many of the issues being raised for men are ones that often get ignored in favour of those affecting women.

    If there is an open thread we can debate it all further.

    The day definitely needs more focus on the good qualities of men, and to help encourage more empathy and awareness of men. Going through severe mental illness and being very close to suicide myself, the number 1 issue I find is that empathy is much much higher for women than it is for men. In Australia we have the Eat cement n harden up attitude that is far worse for men, being unemployed as a man is damn near a mortal sin even if you are legitimately sick. Your value as a man is often tied up in your ability to provide and work.

    Being told to man up, harden up, be stoic and not cry can have devastating effects on men as they are so less likely to open up and talk about these issues, many bottling it up until the rage boils over or until some sadly take their own life.

    Awareness of domestic violence against men definitely needs to be raised too and of course not be derailed by the womengetitworse trope. In Australia we still lack decent awareness and I’d say many male victims have no idea where to turn to. Last I saw the men’s helpline was more about helping male perpetrators with very little/if any wording on their website about male victims. Hopefully that has changed.

  15. Scoobertron says

    With regard to the white ribbon campaign, I think the timing is more of an issue than whether male violence deserves consideration. To illustrate, I think that more should be done to raise awareness of female perpetrators of sexual assault. However, I would not consider this a suitable campaign for international women’s day, and would take a very dim view of any organisation launching such a campaign on this day.

  16. J. J. Ramsey says

    FWIW, I think this is the first place where I’ve heard the term “misogosphere,” and I like it. Seems far more descriptive than “manosphere” ever was.

  17. sonofrojblake says

    @David S, 11

    Male suicide rates haven’t shifted much in the past three decades, whereas female ones have declined dramatically (at least if you are talking about completed suicides).

    Your own parentheses hint you know what you’re saying: there are two different things going on. The choices people make between types of method (quick and certain vs. susceptible to being interfered with) are strongly gendered. I believe the proper question is not “Why has the female suicide rate fallen, when the rate for males has not?”. It should rather be “Why do so few women, compared to men, really want to kill themselves?”. Because the inconvenient truth is, if you really want to kill yourself, it’s easy. We are fragile creatures and we are not difficult to kill. And overwhelmingly the people who really want to kill themselves, who aren’t messing about and don’t want to be saved, are men. It would be easy to guess (and be probably wrong) about reasons why that might be in a society that is kyriarchal or oligarchal, but tells the masses that it’s patriarchal.

  18. David S says

    @sonofrojblake 18

    You are trying to imply that I know things that I don’t know. I haven’t a clue how many self-poisonings are serious attempts at suicide and how many are cries for help, and I would not dream of venturing an opinion on the matter unless I knew the circumstances of such an attempt (and probably not even then).

  19. sonofrojblake says

    I’m implying only that you know the difference between a completed suicide and what we persist in calling an “attempt”. Obviously none of us can know the details of all specific so-called “attempts”, but we don’t need to. We can know how many there are, and whether there’s a gender bias in so-called “attempts” versus actual suicides. And there is.

  20. Mouguias says

    I guess I am not the first one to point this out, but the whole narrative involving “men`s issues” is just as damaging for feminism as it is for traditional “patriarchy”. It certainly crushes feminism monopoly on victimhood, along with the myth that men are the root of all problems and all evil, but then… Acknowledging that men can be raped? Acknowledging that men are vulnerable and need help? Acknowledging that men can be hurt by women and need to be, say, “rescued” from them? I can`t think of anything more damaging to the old “macho” ethos.
    As to the hijacking of IMD… I still remember this picture I was forwarded on Father`s Day, depicting a mother wearing a fake moustache: “Happy Father`s Day to those mothers out there who also play daddy`s role”. Because you know, 365 days a year chanting the glory of womanhood isn`t enough.

  21. HB says

    Jegus, why did I even glance at the comments? Never mind. From a feminist, thanks for your intelligent advocacy for men and hugs for all the dudes suffering from abuse, assault or mental health issues today.

  22. Sans-sanity says

    The whole ‘serious attempt’ vs ‘cry for help’ thing is a false dichotomy. I want to feel well, but I also want to eat a big pile of bacon. The fact that I eat the bacon does not mean I don’t want to feel well, it just means the allure of fried salty pig flesh outweighed that desire. How much it outweighs that desire influences how much bacon gets eaten. Outweighs it by a lot, a fuck-ton gets eaten, outweighs it by a little and I don’t eat so much, maybe put some back in the fridge. Suicidal folks have competing desires to live and to die. If the desire to die outweighs by a lot they take a more certain method, if by a little they take pills and maybe change their minds and call someone. For sure, fake outs probably are a thing, but that doesn’t mean that all the less certain attempts aren’t “real” they’re just likely to be more… conflicted.

    The thing I wonder, is can the greater male suicide rate be put down to these men (generally) having a stronger desire to die, or less reason to want to live? From the strong roles that social issolation and alienation seem to play in male suicide, I favour the latter

  23. Marduk says

    A comical picture of a crying man (caption describes “men whining”) and an article that is mostly about ovarian cancer and how awful men are.

    Happy International Men’s Day bros from your pals at The Guardian!

    Good suggestion BTL though, every time you see shit like this, just make another donation to CALM. It will cheer you up and you’ll feel a lot better about it all.

  24. Mr Duck says

    “A comical picture of a crying man (caption describes “men whining”) and an article that is mostly about ovarian cancer and how awful men are.

    Happy International Men’s Day bros from your pals at The Guardian!”

    Well, it’s actually a comedic piece about how silly men are who complain about there being no International Men’s Day, when there is one.

    But sure, take any fun poked at any men anywhere to mean “all men are terrible!”

    It seems some men really enjoy doing that.

  25. sonofrojblake says

    If the desire to die outweighs [the desire to live] by a lot they take a more certain method, if by a little they take pills and maybe change their minds and call someone

    If the desire to die really outweighs the desire to live by any amount, large or small, then minimal effort is required to effect the desire. Humans are fragile. If I say I “tried” to commit suicide, my failure is all the evidence you need to know that I really wasn’t trying. It would be more accurate to say I was considering suicide. Which is obviously a horrible state to be in, and deserving of whatever help might work. But it’s a qualitatively different type of behaviour, and requires a completely different kind of approach to help, than someone who actually kills themself. But you can bet that the majority of effort and resources for “suicide prevention” get focused on those folks who “attempt”. Which is forgiveable up to a point, because rather the point of the successes is that they’re often a surprise. The pressing question on IMD is – how can we better serve the male population, whose behaviour and needs appear qualitatively different in this regard?

  26. drken says

    @ Archy #15

    Awareness of domestic violence against men definitely needs to be raised too and of course not be derailed by the womengetitworse trope. In Australia we still lack decent awareness and I’d say many male victims have no idea where to turn to. Last I saw the men’s helpline was more about helping male perpetrators with very little/if any wording on their website about male victims. Hopefully that has changed.

    I agree. Awareness that there is help available is a big issue with male victims of domestic violence. I have a little experiment that I like to tell people to run. Pretend you’re a straight man who’s the victim of domestic violence and start looking for help in your area (just use the internet, don’t tie up their phone lines). What I found (your milage may vary) was that nothing comes up that states that they’ll help men who are being abused. In fact, most of the organizations will call themselves “women’s shelters”. However, what will come up are sites from the misogosphere and anti-feminists telling men that whatever they do, they should not go to a domestic violence shelter because they’re run by feminists who don’t believe men can be abused by women and they’ll be accused of being the abuser. I think that’s what bugs me the most about White Rose’s contribution to IMD. It supports the belief that feminists don’t think men can be abused by women, they can only be the abuser. How many men have been convinced not to get help because they were terrified of being treated like a criminal? Yes, men are the most common victim of violence by men. But, by using IMD to highlight male perpetrators of DV, White Rose is not helping.

    As for the male/female dichotomy with suicides, I think it’s because unsuccessful suicide attempts are cries for help, something men are socialized not to do.

  27. That Guy says

    @ 26

    I understand that you are trying to be helpful. However, things like this,

    “If the desire to die really outweighs the desire to live by any amount, large or small, then minimal effort is required to effect the desire. Humans are fragile. If I say I “tried” to commit suicide, my failure is all the evidence you need to know that I really wasn’t trying.”

    are massively insensitive, and IMO, one of the major reasons that men (and people in general) find it so difficult to discuss these matters, and end up ‘successfully’ committing suicide.

    Please consider the effect of your language.

  28. Croi says

    To those claiming that people who overdose on painkillers aren’t really trying to kill themselves: what you are saying is not only spiteful, but actually dangerous and irresponsible. People might choose pills for a variety of reasons, such as wanting to avoid physical pain; or perhaps they don’t have enough anger to commit bloody violence against themselves. It’s also not true to argue, as someone here did, that suicide is easy. Even the most gruesome methods like shooting yourself in the face or jumping in front of a train can fail, and leave a person much worse off than they were before. Given that, it’s not surprising that many opt for pills.

    The obvious danger in stigmatising people as attention-seeking fakers is that anyone who hears this and was considering using pills would be more likely to seek out another method, and therefore to succeed. It reminds me of the old, very damaging advice: ‘people who really mean to kill themselves never talk about it’. That’s just another way of saying: ‘if you discuss your suicidal thoughts, no one will believe you. Better keep quiet about it’.

  29. Lucythoughts says

    It’s also factually untrue to say that drug overdosing is an unsuccessful method. It’s the second most common cause of death in completed suicides for both men and women.

  30. Marduk says

    #25

    “Well, it’s actually a comedic piece about how silly men are who complain about there being no International Men’s Day, when there is one.”

    The point is that its always a “jokey article” and if you wanted a serious article about a serious issue, apparently you can’t complain because it shows you don’t have a sense of humour about the hilarious topic of male suicide (see open thread also for more on this). Every year they do something like this, its tiresome now.

    It is humorous writing I suppose but its not very funny given the premise is a bit of a straw man and also a bit dickish really. Its like going to every article ever on equal pay and just repeating the equal pay act was passed in 1970. While you are suggesting that you’d be rolling in the aisles each and every time, my expectation would be closed to being told to fuck off than a Perrier award.

  31. johngreg says

    Sans-sanity said:

    The thing I wonder, is can the greater male suicide rate be put down to these men (generally) having a stronger desire to die, or less reason to want to live? From the strong roles that social issolation and alienation seem to play in male suicide, I favour the latter.

    I think the difference between wanting to die vs. not wanting to live is really quite important. And I’m not sure it gets enough attention.

    I know from personal experience that the wish to no longer go on living usually means that at that moment in that individual’s life, there are simply not the required resources, whatever they may be, social, financial, emotional, et al., to continue living. But, if those resources became available, the putative suicide would almost certainly go on living, and would have every chance of maintaining and continuing a potentially useful, creative, constructive existence, and live out their biologically allotted time (so to speak).

    I think that’s important.

    On the other hand, for people who no longer want to live, it may very well not be an issue of available/unavailable resources, but other unchangeable factors — ill health for one — that determine the desire/need to die, and no amount of resources will change that.

    I have the impression that in general the world views men’s major issues, meaning issues that might lead to suicide, and the fact of male suicide, as a sort of homogeneous weakness that should/can be overcome by the man “manning up”, as it were, and getting down to the brass tacks of doing whatever it is men are supposed to do to earn their reason/right for existence. All of which is of course terribly misandric and sexist stuff.

    Anyway, I think it important that the difference between these two issues — not wanting to live vs. wanting to die — needs a lot of research, and a lot of very different kinds of support to overcome.

    I am not convinced that there is really much point in trying to stop people who really want to die from doing so — I think, in most cases, they’re going to succeed. Whereas, for men who no longer want to go on living because the various resources required for a meaningful supportable life aren’t there, well, that’s where the energy and support really needs to be placed.

  32. johngreg says

    Lucythoughts said:

    It’s also factually untrue to say that drug overdosing is an unsuccessful method. It’s the second most common cause of death in completed suicides for both men and women.

    That’s not true, actually — it is far more complex than that. Have a gander at the stats over at Lost Hope — I tried to link to it, but was unable to post my post.

    Quote from there:

    The figures presented in the section Suicide statistics would indicate that for every successful suicide attempt, there are 33 unsuccessful ones. For drug overdoses, the ratio is around 40 to 1.

  33. johngreg says

    Sorry for the confusion above. I meant to describe the difference between people who don’t want to go on living (paragraph 3), i.e., people without resources, and people who specifically want to die (paragraph 4), i.e., illness, etc. I messed up the explanation a bit.

  34. Lucythoughts says

    Johngreg # 34
    Yes, there are many more overdoses than there are deaths from overdoses, I’m certainly not disputing that but what I said is also true, drugs overdosing is the second most common method men and women use in completed suicides (it was the most common for women until recently). However, some of the comments here have clearly implied that people choose drug poisoning methods so that they can be rescued, that it isn’t a serious attempt and that the very fact of survival proves that the attempt was never intended to work. The fact that so many people do die of overdoses seems quite important to me given those remarks. Does that mean we can divide overdoses into “serious” (the ones that killed people) and “cries for help” (the ones that didn’t)? I think we all know that the picture is a lot more complicated than that. People may have a number of reasons for choosing overdose, not least that it seems a gentler, less violent methods than others.

  35. johngreg says

    Lucythoughts, yes, perhaps.

    I am fairly sure that the helium bag is rapidly taking over barbituates as the most popular so-called peaceful suicide. It is cheap and far, far easier to get, has far fewer “unsuccessful” attempts, and it is not at all messy, though it’s rather cut-and-dried and not at all romantic — so to speak.

    I suspect if barbituates were as easy to get, and if more people understood that you have to pre-prep with barbs to ensure success, then barbs would still be at the top of the list.

  36. StillGjenganger says

    @Johngreg, Lucythoughts
    Not my discussion, this. But Ally recently pointed out that if you take pills and change your mind you end up in casualty and get counted. If you stand for an hour on a station platform or a high bridge, and then decide not to jump after all, you will not appear in any statistic. Does that have any bearing on the numbers?

  37. sonofrojblake says

    @Croi, 29:

    The obvious danger in stigmatising people as attention-seeking fakers is that anyone who hears this and was considering using pills would be more likely to seek out another method, and therefore to succeed

    Well… good. I’d rather people who really want to do it are successful at the first attempt. The right to end one’s life should not be something we limit to those who are terminally ill. I’d also rather people who don’t really want to do it but are in a place where they’re considering it are put off to the point that they talk to someone first, before they stress the already stretched health and emergency services.

    @Lucythoughts, 30:
    “Most suicides are overdoses”, even if true, is not logically equivalent to “most overdoses are (serious attempts at) suicide”.

    “Took an overdose” is a very broad phrase. It covers, at one end the spectrum, a person who has done their research, secured their drug of choice, put their affairs in order, taken themself to a secluded location and carefully administered a fatal dose of something they know will work. It also covers a person who has got drunk, got maudlin about being single and necked a handful of whatever they found in the bathroom cabinet and then immediately gone on Facebook or Twitter and told their 2,500 closest friends what they’ve done for the second time that week. One of these people is not like the other.

    Does that mean we can divide overdoses into “serious” (the ones that killed people) and “cries for help” (the ones that didn’t)?

    Yes. And the difference in the numbers is surprising. See http://news.bbc.co.uk/1/hi/health/1010024.stm , “There are an estimated 70,000 cases of intentional paracetamol overdose in the UK each year, and more than 350 deaths. ” That’s a 99.5% survival rate, and from what Professor Henry says, even some of the 350 who were “successful” didn’t actually want to die, changing their minds when it was too late to save them.

    Suicide is a strongly gendered problem that affects men at a rate more than three times that of women, and it’s getting worse, not better. “Attempting” – a qualitatively different and MUCH more common activity – is also strongly gendered, and the so-called “attempters” are overwhelmingly women. Such help as there is has been mostly focused on “attempters”. Result: massive drop in women successfully killing themselves. Great. Effect on rate of suicides among men? Zero. If you’re not angry about that, ask yourself why not.

  38. That Guy says

    @39 sonofrojblake

    Have you considered the possibility of changing the circumstances that cause people to want to kill themselves?

    That you are seemingly quite content to condemn people to wander out into the woods to die is beyond words.

    You are (as I said before) irredeemably vile.

  39. sonofrojblake says

    @40,That Guy
    You have obviously not considered the possibility that the circumstances may not be amenable to change. Or even, unsurprisingly, the possibility that really, it’s none of your damn business.

    I’m not “condemning people to wander out into the woods and die”. I’m respecting their right to make that decision, while calling for a better understanding of why so many more men than women are choosing it.

  40. That Guy says

    @41

    No, you’re not. you’re using this topic to demean and debase people most in need of help with seemingly no regard for the harm you could be causing.

    fuck off.

  41. Lucythoughts says

    I can see this is going to go nowhere.
    #39 “ “Most suicides are overdoses”, even if true, is not logically equivalent to “most overdoses are (serious attempts at) suicide”.”
    I never said either of those things.

    #39 ” “Took an overdose” is a very broad phrase. It covers, at one end the spectrum, a person who has done their research, secured their drug of choice, put their affairs in order, taken themself to a secluded location and carefully administered a fatal dose of something they know will work. It also covers a person who has got drunk, got maudlin about being single and necked a handful of whatever they found in the bathroom cabinet and then immediately gone on Facebook or Twitter and told their 2,500 closest friends what they’ve done for the second time that week. One of these people is not like the other. ”

    I agree that those things are different, and there is a huge spectrum of behaviour in between. To throw in some relevant quotes: “Suicide is associated with multiple risk factors, of which a prior history of suicide attempts is the single strongest predictor” (The depressed patient and suicidal patient in the emergency department: evidence-based management and treatment strategies; Cheng et al, 2011); “Suicide is complex. It usually occurs gradually, progressing from suicidal thoughts, to planning, to attempting suicide and finally dying by suicide.” (International Association for Suicide Prevention). Suicide isn’t binary, it isn’t a case of “responsible” people who rationally decide they want to die, plan it meticulously and leave no margin for error or one hand and whiners on the other.

    “Such help as there is has been mostly focused on “attempters”. Result: massive drop in women successfully killing themselves. Great. Effect on rate of suicides among men? Zero. If you’re not angry about that, ask yourself why not.”

    Risk factors are important in suicide prevention and we know that previous attempts are the biggest one (and yes, men attempt too although not as often). Others are gender, age group, ethnicity, contact with mental health services, unempolyment and others. The problem is that it is very hard to separate from these very large demographics the people likely to kill themselves to target your resources, so they are largely spent on people who have previously attempted suicide and people who tell someone they are suicidal. We could also really, really use much better public information campaigns to try to get people to seek help, a better mental health service and more community based projects to reach out to people who are isolated. I expect David Cameron to be releasing the funding for those any minute.

  42. sonofrojblake says

    >>#39 “ “Most suicides are overdoses”, even if true, is not logically equivalent to “most overdoses are (serious attempts at) suicide”.”
    >I never said either of those things.

    I knew that, which was why I included the qualifier “even if true”.

    Suicide isn’t binary, it isn’t a case of “responsible” people who rationally decide they want to die, plan it meticulously and leave no margin for error or one hand and whiners on the other.

    I never said it was. What I did do was supply a reference about just one method – intentional paracetamol overdose – showing that for every successful suicide there were something like two hundred documented “attempts”, and even some of the successes were people who changed their minds, just too late. It’s very much not binary, and the successes are a tiny, tiny sliver at one end of the graph. And all the efforts we’ve made and changing the numbers over the last thirty five years have drastically reduced the number of women in that sliver, and not affected the number of men at all.

    it is very hard to separate from these very large demographics the people likely to kill themselves to target your resources, so they are largely spent on people who have previously attempted suicide and people who tell someone they are suicidal

    It’s very hard to help men and women equally, so the resources are spent in a way that statistics show has helped women, and has had no effect for men. Happy with that?

  43. Lucy says

    Sonof

    “Your own parentheses hint you know what you’re saying: there are two different things going on. The choices people make between types of method (quick and certain vs. susceptible to being interfered with) are strongly gendered. I believe the proper question is not “Why has the female suicide rate fallen, when the rate for males has not?”. It should rather be “Why do so few women, compared to men, really want to kill themselves?”. Because the inconvenient truth is, if you really want to kill yourself, it’s easy.”

    Jesus, not this balls again.

    The male is not the neutral benchmark by which to measure anything, at all. Not merit. Not priorities. Not happiness. Not desire. Not suffering. Not suicide.

    Women are not men.

    They do not, as a rule, compete to be an Iron Man. They do not as a rule, need medals or statues. They do not as a rule chase a lump of cheese down a hill ending in a bruised crumpled heap at the bottom. They do not, as a rule, take part in motorbike circuses or drive monster trucks. They do not as a rule, run reckless and dangerous air displays over the general public. They do, as a rule, jump from the edge of space sponsored by Red Bull.

    Neither do as a rule drive their cars and bikes too fast being involved in over 95% of fatal collisions. They do not as a rule jump off high buildings. They do not as a rule, shoot either other people; or indeed themselves. They do not as a rule use explosives against other people, or detonate themselves.

    A desire to die doesn’t equate to a desire for fear, a desire for recklessness, a desire for pain and suffering, a desire to shock, a desire to torture the people who find you, or have to cope with your choice, or a desire to change gender and personality.

    Women do not mirror men’s impulsive and/or violent means in either life or death. Nor does social conditioning suddenly abandon us in times of despair. The reason fewer women than men die of suicide is not through want of trying (they attempt suicide at four times the rate of males), I’ve seen no evidence that it through want of desire to, it appears to be through want of testosterone.

    The benchmark of female suicidal behaviour is for it to be slow burn, repetitive, domestic, conservative, untraumatic, to preserve the appearance, to be considerate towards other people. The upshot of this is that women tend to choose poisoning. As with falling murder rates, the falling rates are misleading. The intent hasn’t changed, the Accident and Emergency departments have.

    It doesn’t make female suffering more superficial, less genuine, less profound, less full of intent, more attention-seeking, or any of the rest of the psychologically-illiterate and misogynist reasons regularly trotted out by Mike Buchanan and people such as yourself, it just makes it less masculine.

    I have no wish to diminish the seriousness of male suicide, by all means give male suicide its due attention, but the corresponding MRA campaign to diminish the female version is typical in every respect – inits self-referential, dishonest, prejudice.

    There is no need to juxtapose male with female suicide, any more than there is with male vs female victimisation by male criminals. It’s not instructive to compare two incomparable things.

    Incidentally, there is nothing whatsoever to evidence the prevailing myth that women are targeted less frequently than men for violence because of their gender, and criminalssuffer from a surfeit of chivalry. There a great deal to suggest the lower figure is due to opportunity.

  44. sonofrojblake says

    Leaving aside the comment “They do not as a rule, need medals or statues” – have you even heard of the Olympics? – you appear to have missed the point and simply repeated a great deal of things we all know perfectly well already, apart from this canard:

    The benchmark of female suicidal behaviour is for it to be […] considerate towards other people

    Absolute utter bullshit. The defining feature of suicides, male and female, is an utter disregard for other people. This goes a million times more for the so-called “attempts”.

    I have no wish to diminish the seriousness of male suicide[…] There is no need to juxtapose male with female suicide

    Contradicting yourself so effectively makes my point for me.

    Imagine for a moment that over the last thirty years we’d managed to significantly and incontrovertibly reduce the number of rapes and sexual assaults, and were congratulating ourselves about it. And then someone had a brief look at the figures and realised that the entire reduction, all of it, was due to a drop in the number of rapes and sexual assaults on men. Rapes and sexual assaults on women were going on at exactly the same rate as before, even as the headlines said “Rejoice! Massive drop in rape and sexual assault!”, celebrating how much better life was… but only for men.

    That’s the situation with suicide stats. The rates have dropped, and the attitude evinced here and elsewhere is “we’re doing something right, let’s do more of that”. Whereas the truth is whatever we’re doing is doing NOTHING to help men. Sure, carry on doing what we’re doing to help women – I never said to stop that. But there seems to be deep reluctance to even acknowledge that men are being failed every day. /shrug/ Which is why IMD was/is necessary.

  45. 123454321 says

    Lucy #47 I promise to give up drink for Christmas if you promise to give up the bull shit.

    Oh goody goody, I’m safe with the knowledge that I will still have a merry old boozy christmas….

  46. Marduk says

    Lucy, the most famous (and in fact defining) Iron Man competitor was female and it probably wouldn’t exist today without her. I could make similar arguments for many of the activities you raise.

    https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Julie_Moss

    Its funny how quickly women get erased from history and the essentialism kick in when required to win an argument.
    You sound like a cross between a pipe-smoking 1950s patriarch and Camille Paglia.

    You should be careful of equating risk taking with recklessness and recklessness with, what, ‘thanatos’?
    As Paglia says, with that kind of attitude we’d still be living in mud huts.

  47. Lucythoughts says

    @ sonofrojblake #46

    “What I did do was supply a reference about just one method – intentional paracetamol overdose – showing that for every successful suicide there were something like two hundred documented “attempts”,”

    It’s tempting when confronted with an unsourced, apparently unverifiable estimate in a journalistic article to simply disregard it, but not wishing to be a dog-in-the-manger about it I had a go at verifying these numbers. The 70,000 is an estimate of paracetamol overdoses cited in a paper from 1996. It seems to be one of those numbers where it’s origins are lost in the mists of time so I can’t say for sure how it was arrived at. The 350 deaths I have no clue about; as far as I can tell there are about 90 deaths from paracetamol poisoning per year in the UK currently, which is down about 40% since the pack size limits were introduced. Even in 1996 the figure was closer to 150 deaths per year.

    The true figures for self-poisoning are incredible hard to get. There is some data for hospital admissions but even those don’t always distinguish between deliberate and accidental poisonings and intent is very hard to assess. Figures for cases treated only in emergency units are even harder to get and obviously there are an unknown number of sub-lethal self-poisonings taking place at home which never make it to a hospital. It is fair to say that the numbers involved are very big indeed though, definitely in the tens of thousands, possibly the hundreds of thousands and they certainly aren’t all suicide attempts, many are part of a pattern of self-harm.

    “It’s very hard to help men and women equally, so the resources are spent in a way that statistics show has helped women, and has had no effect for men. Happy with that?”

    Of course I’m not happy that the male suicide rate has remained static, and I could talk for some time about the things that aren’t being done, or aren’t being done well enough, to bring these number down. My point about funding wasn’t a frivolous one; if suicide prevention is coming through the health service then it is always going to follow the most fundamental paradigm of the health service, which is “when people show up, we treat them.” This isn’t working to reduce suicide risk amongst middle aged men, which is the group that is seeing the biggest increases. Community based suicide prevention and public awareness is largely funded through local Government support of voluntary organizations. Local Government funding has been cut to the bone, services are being cut everywhere and everybody is scrambling to justify the funding they’ve got, so there is no chance that new projects will even be considered. On top of that, the services that indirectly help support groups who are vulnerable to suicide, like homeless shelters and citizens advice, are disappearing. I’d be surprised if those numbers don’t go up instead of down, so no, I am very, very not happy.

    With all that in mind I still think that your original premise, that the drop in female suicide rates has occurred because of funding being targeted at people who have self-harmed and has been at the expense of reducing male suicides, is mistaken. Here is why I think so: the big reduction in female suicides hasn’t been a steady decline, it occurred in the late 80’s and early 90’s as a result of a dramatic drop in suicides amongst older women, mostly those over 55. What caused this drop I don’t really know, although there are many things that could have contributed to it. The point is though, that older people are much less likely to self-harm and have many fewer failed suicide attempts.

    Focusing suicide prevention on people who are hospitalized for self-harm is likely to overwhelming help younger people. Women constitute about two thirds of admissions for self-harm but the one third who are male still constitute a number in the tens of thousands a year and they are significantly more likely to go on to commit suicide (about 200 x suicide rate of the general population), so I tend to think that targeting this group should benefit both men and women, although there is a case to be made that the support on offer has some gapping holes in it and that men are more likely to fall through those holes, which is a separate issue that needs to be addressed.

  48. sonofrojblake says

    There’s only a need for additional words because people persist compiling and quoting stats that include even the most desultory so-called “attempt”. See, for example, post 11:

    Male suicide rates haven’t shifted much in the past three decades, whereas female ones have declined dramatically (at least if you are talking about completed suicides).

    The parenthetical qualifier is very telling.

  49. wysinwyg says

    @sonofrojblake:

    If you have specific evidence to bear on the question of the proportion of “serious” suicide attempts to “cries to help” then please provide it. Otherwise, please stop making unwarranted assumptions about it.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *