In western society, women have more freedoms and equality than at any point in history. There are better opportunities and career prospects that affords financial as well as social independence - at least to some degree. Let us not be complacent. The law may have changed, but attitudes and culture can limit this potential. There is much that needs to change if all women of any ethnicity, gender identity, and sexuality across the globe are to enjoy parity with men. It is a position that is right, fair and just.
But let us not forget that in working towards parity for women we must not forget men. The shift of roles to accommodate women in the workplace has created a state of insecurity for men, particularly as competition increases for jobs in an unstable economic environment. This state of ‘anomie’, or not having purpose, has pushed men to self-destructive ways of coping, and perhaps to suicide. Men are 3 times more likely to suicide than women.
You would think that an equal, parallel shift that finds men engaging more in childcare and the running of the home would help balance this out - finding a new purpose within the home. Whilst men are sharing this responsibility, attitudes still exist along with practical problems that suggest this role will never be equal. It is likely that women will always need to balance unequal pressures from home as well as work. And the burden is greater for working single parents who tend to be women.
In 2015, the Office for National Statistics UK reported an increase in women dying by suicide for the second consecutive year with the highest group between the ages of 45-59. The reasons are speculative, but convincing; women work in the same competitive, pressured working environment and have the same financial worries as men. They have an unequal burden of care, not just of children, but also of elderly and/or disabled relatives, particularly in this period of austerity. Added to this is the risk of impulsive actions fuelled by alcohol and choosing more lethal methods. Women, it seems, are becoming more at risk of suicide, and given that more women self-harm or attempt suicide than men, the increased risk of death is worrying.
Understanding the pressures, burden and entrapment that leads to suicidal thinking can help. But what will really make a difference is if we do something about it, and this is easier than you think. On international Women’s day help us to spread a simple 3-step message. The #HeyAreYouOK campaign brings the whole community together to recognise and deal with distress before suicide becomes a thought, and helps change a culture that sees distress as a weakness. In collective strength we can change the world we live in.
Help us share the 3-step message:
Step 1: Look after yourself
Step 2: Look out for others
Step 3: And if you feel able to, offer your help and support