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Campaign suggests reason behind suicide gender statistics

'Belonging' campaign suggests reason behind suicide gender statistics

An online campaign about meaning and belonging has revealed an interesting connection with the difference in suicide rates between men and women.

The Diversityworks Trust campaign, “You Mean A Lot To Me™”, is collecting and blogging 100 videos of people talking about someone who means a lot to them. Half way in, the number of videos made by women (30) is more than double the number made by men (13). The remaining seven were made by people identifying outside the gender binary of male and female.

“Interestingly, this is opposite to the ratio of suicides between men and women,” says Executive Director Philip Patston. According to 2011 statistics, 3.5 times the number of men committed suicide than women.[1]

The campaign also has nearly double the number of videos about women (25) than men (14).

“This makes us wonder if men may have less of a sense of belonging and meaning in their relationships,” Patston says. “And if they are less likely or able to express it.”

Patston thinks it boils down to societal pressures that leave men less free to experience and express a full range of emotions. “In NZ culture especially, men having feelings of sadness, fear or even extreme joy is, on the whole, frowned upon.

“This only really leaves anger as a legitimate feeling for men to feel or express. “We particularly condemn any acknowledgement of love between men.”

This has an impact on all men, he says, but more so those who may have romantic or sexual feelings towards other men. “They feel like they have to hide behind ‘macho bravado’ for fear of bullying.”

In 2011 (based on 2009 figures), NZ ranked 16th in the world in terms of overall suicide rates[2]. In 2009 NZ had the highest rate of youth suicide in the OECD (16.9 per 100,000 — the OECD average is 6.9)[3]. In both cases rates amongst men exceeded women.

“There are no suicide statistics for people who do not fall within traditional binary notions of gender identity, which is becoming more and more common,” Patston notes.

The idea for the campaign, which aims to explore meaning and belonging in society, and their importance to mental health and wellbeing, came from a blog post Patston wrote about the suicide of Australian celebrity Charlotte Dawson. “It made me reflect on the way in which belonging – more than just merely connection – is integral in creating meaning in our lives.

“We hope that by asking people to express the reason why they are connected to someone, we can help people to feel and express more of a sense of meaning and belonging within that connection.”

The full complement of videos will be shown at the 100 Days Project exhibition in October.


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