Young men in this country are four times more likely to die at their own hands than Irish women. Suicide is the leading cause of death among young adults in Ireland with young men disproportionately affected.
Although total levels of male suicide remain relatively low in comparison to much of Europe, the number of teenagers and young men taking their own lives is among the highest in the EU.
It is now the leading cause of death among Irish men under the age of 40. 78 per cent of young Irish men know someone who has taken their own life.
So why are we losing so many young Irish men to their own hands? For all their gregariousness and bravado, young Irish men are often profoundly insular when it comes to discussing any problems they may be experiencing.
Alcohol is also undoubtedly a factor in a country where its abuse is seemingly endemic with young Irish men often preferring to dilute their feelings with alcohol, rather than risk appearing vulnerable by discussing them with family or friends. Alcohol is involved in up to 50 per cent of all Irish suicides.
Male centered employment was also disproportionately affected by the economic downturn, with decline in industries such as construction leading to huge levels of unemployment among young men.
Friday was World Mental Health Day, the culmination of Mental Health Awareness Week. To mark the occasion, the Taoiseach Enda Kenny spoke to the annual Irish Association of Suicidology (IAS). “[Irish men] hope it’ll be grand, next week, or next month, or next year, when it will all go away. Only it won’t,” he said.
He also highlighted the increasing pressure on young adults as a whole with the current generation facing pressures and expectations that previous generations had not “expected to be impossibly thin, impossibly cool, impossibly talented, impossibly beautiful, impossibly rich and impossibly famous – at the risk of being impossibly damaged”.
Speaking at the IAS event, Mr Kenny said that Irish men continued to, “suffer in silence”, while announcing that funding for the National Office for Suicide Prevention had doubled to €9 million since 2011.
While the increased State funding for suicide prevention is of course welcome, it is Irish men’s continued reluctance to talk about their feelings which is resulting in the needless loss of so many lives.
If you are affected by depression, having suicidal thoughts or just want to talk, please visit http://www.samaritans.org/your-community/samaritans-work-ireland or phone 1850 60 90 90