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Wednesday, 13 October, 1999, 18:31 GMT 19:31 UK
Doctors declare war on male suicides
Many young men visit their GP before killing themselves
GPs need to get better at spotting the warning signs that a young man may be at risk of committing suicide, say doctors.


Suicide is the second biggest cause of death among young men aged 15 to 24.

The Doctor Patient Partnership (DPP), the British Medical Association (BMA) and the Samaritans launched a major campaign on Tuesday to target young male suicides.

Posters will be placed in pubs, job centres and benefit centres to draw attention to the problem and where help is available.

Mental Health
Despite a slight fall over the past two years, the number of young men who commit suicide rose by 80% between 1980 and 1992. In 1995, the suicide rate among young men was 150 per million.

Although young women are more likely to attempt suicide, men tend to be more successful at it because they resort to more violent means to end their lives.

Every day two young adults in the UK take their lives and doctors and suicide campaigners have banded together to find ways to tackle the problem.

Many suicidal young men visit their GP within four weeks of taking their own lives, but doctors often fail to pick up the warning signs.

Dr Sunil Angris of the BMA's GP Committee says part of the problem is that young men are not as open about their feelings and problems as young women.

"Males tend not to open up while females are more likely to unload their stress," he said.

Early warning signs


A DPP poll shows that GPs are usually the first professional port of call for suicidal young men.

Campaigners believe that a more informal approach by doctors to young men could make them feel more at ease and help them share their problems.

15.27 23-02-99 poster ac
Posters will raise awareness
The DPP poll also shows that men would prefer to talk face to face with their families and partners about problems than discuss their worries over a helpline.

Seventy-one per cent said they would prefer face to face discussions about problems, compared with 8% who would choose a helpline and 1% who would consult the internet.

The Samaritans says it has walk-in centres where people can talk to trained counsellors face to face, although people tend to associate the organisation only with its helpline.

Responsibilities

Simon Armson, chief executive of the Samaritans, said: "We all have a responsibility to acknowledge that young men can suffer despairing and suicidal feelings, although they might try to hide them.

"We must give men the time and space they need to talk openly about those feelings."

Dr Simon Fradd
Dr Simon Fradd wants to raise awareness of suicide risk
DPP chairman Dr Simon Fradd said: "Young men are often reluctant to talk about their problems and are sometimes too ashamed to seek help from their GP.

"What we are trying to say to these young people is that they should talk to their GP about their feelings and that the GP should reassure them that any conversation is strictly confidential."

Men's Health Forum, an organisation representing approximately 100 groups with an interest in the subject, is to undertake research into why so many young men kill themselves, and into how access to health care professionals can be improved.

Chairman Dr Ian Banks said many men were reluctant to talk about their feelings because of the "stiff upper lip" culture.

13.30  23-02-99 leaflet ac
Leaflets will draw attention to danger signs
"It is not only tragic, it is a national disgrace for so many potential years of life to be lost by these young men taking their lives in such numbers.

"GPs as well as the government have to play their part in addressing this epidemic of human misery."

Professor Sir Donald Acheson, former Chief Medical Officer and author of a major report into health inequalities last year, said: "Suicide in men and in particular unskilled young men is one of the most important public health problems of our times.

"It is also the tip of a huge iceberg of despair and misery."

See also:

14 Dec 98 | Health
Young male suicides double
15 Feb 99 | Health
'Young women suicidal too'
17 Feb 99 | Health
More young men dying
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