The latest figures released in September 2022 show that around three quarters of suicides are male, and since 2010, the highest suicide rates each year have been in males aged 45 to 64 years. Employers need to be aware of the demographics that need the most support when considering their health and wellbeing strategies.

This figure may be surprising to many employers who would be forgiven for thinking suicide is more common in younger people. It seems that there may be an ‘invisible’ group of men in the later stages of their careers who are suffering and in need of support.

Raising awareness

A fun event with a serious message, Movember involves the growing of moustaches to raise awareness of men’s health issues. The aim is to increase knowledge regarding male cancers and to start conversations about men’s mental health. Movember is an ideal opportunity for employers to encourage open discussions among all employees of all ages about mental health issues, but perhaps particularly among men between the ages of 45 and 64.

Building pressure

This invisible demographic falls somewhere between generation X (age 42 – 57) and baby boomers (age 58 – 76). Men at this age often face a combination of challenges including being in a sandwich of caring responsibilities for dependant children and older relatives. Relationship issues and divorce often happen at this stage, as do increased financial concerns surrounding mortgages, retirement and caring for others. At the ages of 45 to 64, some men will be dealing with chronic or major illness and many will begin to have a sense of their own mortality.

Particularly among men, there can be a tendency to avoid seeking help, hoping problems will just go away. Men may be more likely to dismiss communications about their emotional wellbeing if they are not relevant at that time, so repeating and reiterating them is important. Our suggestion is to ‘ask twice’. The question: ‘How are you?’ will often be met with the response: ‘Fine’. But asked a second time: ‘No, how are you really?’ may open up more of a dialogue. This is a useful tactic for a line manager concerned about a colleague.

Action plan

Suicide is preventable. If nothing else this Movember, encourage employees to ask each other the question: ‘How are you?’, and then ask again: ‘No, how are you really?’.

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