Moving on from Movember: where do we go from here?

Silhouette of a moustache

By Samuel Buckley

Another Movember is coming to an end, and men up and down the country will be shaving off (or keeping!) moustaches grown over the month of November to raise awareness of male suicide.

The decision to focus Movember  on male suicide this year reflects a very specific and decidedly stark trend: in 2016, more than three times as many men (4,287) than women (1,381) died by suicide in England, Wales and Scotland.[1]

While the numbers of people dying by suicide have been steadily declining over the last thirty years, the gap between men and women has grown. Rates among women have gradually fallen from just under 11 per 100,000 in 1981 to less than 5 per 100,000 in 2016; while rates among men also fell, they did so a far slower rate: from 20 per 100,000 in 1981 to 16 per 100,000 in 2016.[2]

Among several age groups, such as 40-50 year olds, suicide rates among men have actually risen, and in any case remain far higher than average.[3]

So, with Movember over, where does all this leave us?autumn-2898551_640

Firstly, it leaves us with the need to look beyond the most obvious figures. Separate studies have found that suicidal ideation among  females is as common, if not more so, than it is among men.[4]

So while more men may die by suicide, the problem of suicidality is universal, not gender-specific.

Which means that Movember leaves us with the challenge to proactively support the mental health of all people, whether our employees or our customers.

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As disability-smart employers and service providers, this is the main challenge: to follow awareness raising initiatives like Movember with solid practical action. Most recently, we’ve seen companies such as KPMG and Fujitsu meet that challenge by having senior figures sponsor and encourage the creation of employee support networks for people with mental health conditions.

These actions and initiatives are about more than just doing the right thing – though many organisations do it for this very reason – it is about taking a course that makes the most sense. A workforce that is healthy, happy and safe is more desirable for an employer than one that is not, and a culture where openness about mental health and practical support for colleagues is the norm will be far healthier, with lower rates of absence, lower employee turnover, and happier employees.

[1] Emyr John, Suicide in the United Kingdom – 2016 Dataset (Newport: Office for National Statistics, 2017), https://www.ons.gov.uk/peoplepopulationandcommunity/birthsdeathsandmarriages/deaths/datasets/suicidesintheunitedkingdomreferencetables (accessed 24 November 2017)

[2] Ibid.

[3] Ibid.

[4] As found by the Adult Psychiatric Morbidity in England 2007 study, cited in Daniel Freeman and Jason Freeman, ‘Why are men more likely than women to take their own lives?’, (London: The Guardian, 2015) , https://www.theguardian.com/science/2015/jan/21/suicide-gender-men-women-mental-health-nick-clegg (accessed 24 November 2017)

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