'New man' behind rise in suicides: Samaritans warn of pressures and anxieties facing the modern male

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The Independent Online
THE PRESSURES of being a 'new man' have contributed to huge rises in suicides in young men over the past 10 years, the chief executive of the Samaritans said yesterday.

Commenting on the 83 per cent increase in suicides in England and Wales in 15- to 24-year-old men between 1982 and 1992, Simon Armson said that being a new man was an additional pressure to the anxieties of getting a job or starting a relationship.

'We have this concept of the 'new man', but it seems that he is a confused young man in as much that he is not quite sure how he is supposed to behave, respond or relate in different relationships.

'Men find it more difficult to articulate their feelings of distress and prefer to bottle it up. Sometimes this can prove to be disastrous. Women find it easier to explain and to put things into perspective,' he said.

Speaking at a briefing to mark the Samaritans' 40th birthday, Mr Armson said that in the past men knew their role but the confusion for 'new man' was caused by knowing what was expected of him.

While the suicide rates over 10 years for men are static at 15 per 100,000 of the population, the figures in the 15 to 24 age band rose from 262 in 1982 to 412 in 1992. Suicides also rose among 25- to 34-year-old men from 502 to 659 in the same period.

Mr Armson said: 'We could take the view that we have done everything there is to be done and that all we need to do is to carry on. But taking this view would sow the seeds of complacency and this we cannot afford to do.

'What we are doing is finding new ways to reach those parts of our society that seem to be at greatest risk to suicide,' he said.

Warning that the official figures are the tip of an iceberg since a proportion of genuine suicides are disguised in open verdicts or verdicts of accidental death, he said their new campaign was designed to help young men 'feel that it is OK to talk about how they feel and to give them a greater awareness of what we do'.

This is being done by contact with a variety of other organisations including young farmers' branches of the National Farmers' Union, the Round Table and professional associations.

They are also working with the Royal College of General Practitioners and the Royal College of Psychiatrists on guidelines for doctors.

'Our message to young men is that it is OK to express how you feel, it is OK to feel bad and life-savingly important to talk about these feelings,' Mr Armson said.

The Samaritans, founded by Chad Varah at the church of St Stephen, Walbrook, in the City of London in 1953, has given 10 million hours of service to people in crisis through nearly 200 branches manned 24 hours a day by 22,900 volunteers in the UK and Irish Republic.

Letters, page 17

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