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managing suicidal feelings

When the phrase ‘That sounds tough’ could be a life saver

Have you ever had suicidal thoughts?

Suicidal feelings can affect anyone, regardless of their background, age, gender, ethnicity.

The phrase ‘suicidal feelings’ covers a wide range of experience. At one end of the scale, it might mean that you, or people you know, are having abstract thoughts about ending your life or feeling that people would be better off without you. Such thoughts might be met with a different internal voice that says “of course I wouldn’t actually”. This is something many of us experience at one time or another in our lives. At the other end of the scale, you or people you know, may feel so distressed that you are thinking practically about methods of suicide or making be clear plans to take your own life.

Emmengard’s ‘Suicide Scale’ can be a useful way of identifying how you feel and illustrates how you might rate your thoughts on a scale of severity. Read more about that Here.

Why more men?

The ONS report from 2019 highlighted that male suicide rates were the highest they had been since 2000. Samaritans charity also report that within the UK, men are 3x as likely as women to take their own lives, with the highest rates being of men aged 45-49.

We believe that men are significantly more susceptible to reaching extremes of feeling that lead them to take their own lives. An audit carried out by The Campaign Against Living Miserably (CALM) in 2016 suggests that men are less likely to speak about feelings of depression than women, and that they feel more embarrassed about sharing their feelings.

Masculinity in our society

Traditional views still link masculinity with strength, with not talking about feelings, with “acting out” feelings, for example through aggression. There is much debate over how the mix of nature and nurture play their part in shaping men in our society and what – if anything – needs to be addressed to change it. However for the many men struggling with stress and intensely difficult feelings, the society-vs-biology debate is not the issue. Staying well, staying alive, is the matter at hand.

Why does talking matter?

Talking about thoughts and feelings is a critical way to reduce the intensity of what might be turning round in our minds. The very act of turning thoughts into words in our own minds can help; saying those words out loud can help too; and saying them out loud to another person helps us connect with our thoughts in a different way so that we might be able to start to imagine or find a new perspective.

What does good talking therapy for men look like?

In July/Aug 21 issue of Therapy Today, an article by Catherine Jackson, titled “Sometimes it’s hard to be a man” looks at the how the counselling profession might need to change to support men better. In the article, therapist Paul Atkinson finds  men respond well to support groups. One of our counsellors at Bramham Therapy recalls how a men’s group helped her father.  “He was part of a men’s group for decades. Growing up, I never knew what the phrase meant. It seemed a bit secret. At Dad’s funeral, men I didn’t know spoke of him profound warmth and love, describing someone I didn’t recognise. I imagined he must have been warm and open with them in the group, and though I didn’t experience him that way, it was touching to know that it was part of him and a part he’d been able to access with others.

Some counsellors offering walk-and-talk therapy find that men respond to it positively, finding the body movement something they feel comfortable with, and lack of direct eye contact less intense. Some therapists aim to accept and work with more male forms of communication such as banter rather than “shoe-horning” men  into a traditionally female-oriented therapeutic experience.

Do you, or someone close to you need help?

You can also contact these groups yourself and ask for advice on how best to support someone you’re worried about.

  • If you’re struggling, start by telling someone you know that you’re finding things tough, feeling anxious, would like some help to feel better…whatever words come to you.
  • Consider what kind of help might help. Talking therapies can help you or people you know  to start to talk about things without being a burden, without being judged. Talking can reduce the intensity of distress you might be feeling.
  • Look out for one another. If you think someone might be struggling, encourage them to talk about what’s going on for them, in whatever way they’re able. As much as you might be tempted to offer solutions or to relate the time you experienced something similar, don’t. Rather, simply reflect back what you hear and acknowledge their feelings. Be there with them. “That sounds tough” can be much, much more helpful than you might think.

Useful links:

suicidal-feelings-2016.pdf ( – 116 123 – 0800 58 58 58 – 0300 1020 505 – 0800 1111

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