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We find out from award-winning charity, Campaign Against Living Miserably (CALM), why men are three times more likely to take their own lives than women and what signs we should all be aware of; as featured in Sanctuary Social Work News

Suicide is the single biggest killer of men aged under 45 in the UK, and sadly, on average 12 men take their own life every day. We catch up with Jane Powell, Chief Executive Officer of CALM, which is dedicated to preventing male suicide. 

Could you tell us more about the work of CALM?

CALM works to prevent male suicide by providing frontline services for men, promoting cultural change and campaigning for better understanding of suicide and prevention.

CALM runs a free helpline and webchat service for any man who needs support, and offers a website and magazine with content that reaches men on their own terms.

Now in our tenth year, CALM has also carved out a reputation for running hard-hitting campaigns that raise awareness of male suicide and tackle stereotypes which depict a ‘real man’ as strong and silent.

What are the main influencing factors (or pressure points) in male suicide? 

The breakdown of family relationships, work and money pressures, health concerns and mental health are issues that come up repeatedly when men call our helpline.

All this is happening against a backdrop of austerity. A scientific study published by the University of Liverpool in the British Medical Journal suggests that ongoing austerity measures and rising unemployment have driven more than 1,000 people in Britain to take their own lives. The study found that the number of unemployed men rose on average across Britain by 25.6 percent each year from 2008 to 2010, a rise associated with a yearly increase in male suicide of 3.6 percent.

Why do men find it more difficult to reach out than women? 

The CALM Masculinity Audit 2014 revealed that the cultural expectations of men are that they should, by default, be the main breadwinner. Taking equal financial responsibility in the household is still for many women seen as something they can opt into. Many men believe that the burden of being responsible for their family’s economic and practical wellbeing remains on their shoulders.  

Following 10 years of calls to the CALM helpline, as a charity, we have a rich vein of stories and comments provided to us by men who support the campaign and their message is consistent; ‘It is tough being a man’. This was reinforced by our October 2015 YouGov poll, which revealed 43% of men have contemplated taking their own life, but less than half of these men spoke to anyone about how they were feeling. Almost a third said they didn’t speak up because they didn’t know how to talk about it.

What role can frontline social workers play in helping men at risk of suicide?

Various circumstances can happen in our lives that could put anybody ‘at risk’ of needing support, but understanding the pressures brought on by masculinity is vitally important. 

As social work professionals, just being aware of some of the signs is useful. Men who may be contemplating taking their own lives could be:
  • Sleeping too much or too little
  • Less interested in the world around them or socially withdrawn
  • Drinking too much or taking drugs
  • Engaging in ‘risky’ behaviour 
  • Very irritable or angry
  • Behaving in a very hyper manner 
  • Neglecting their appearance
  • Withdrawing from social activities
  • Giving away possessions
  • Talking about suicide or wanting to die, even if in a vague manner
Very often, men who are depressed may camouflage this by being very outward-facing, looking after their friends, being the life and soul of the party, the joker, probably taking risks or behaving ‘badly’. What they tend not to do is sit down and reveal how they’re feeling.

Allowing them to admit to being vulnerable in a place where they feel safe and supported can make all the difference.

Further information

For more information, visit the and to request copies of CALM’s free magazine CALMzine, simply email

CALM’s helpline 0800 58 58 58 and webchat service (5pm – midnight daily) are free, confidential, anonymous and staffed by trained professionals.


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