Campaign targets young men in distress
Protect life, the Northern Ireland Suicide Prevention Strategy, has identified young men as a key target group. In response to action outlined in the strategy the Health Promotion Agency for Northern Ireland (HPA) has developed a new public information campaign aimed at men, particularly young men aged 15–24 years, launched today by the Health Minister, Michael McGimpsey.
Although the number of registered suicides in Northern Ireland has fallen in the last year, men continue to be at high risk and the most recent figures show that 72% of suicides were males and suicides among young men in the 15–24 age group were more than three times higher than that of young women of the same age.1
Dr Brian Gaffney, Chief Executive of the HPA, said: "This campaign is targeting young men who are covering up feelings of anxiety, distress or despair and encouraging them to open up and seek help before their personal situation deteriorates. Research suggests that men are less likely than women to recognise the signs and symptoms indicating mental health problems and are less likely than women to seek help for health problems.” 2, 3
More than any other group, young men aged 16–24 years feel they have a lack of social support, with almost half (49%) saying they have some or a severe lack of social support.4 There is often a stigma associated with emotional problems and many people, particularly young men, think it is necessary to deny or disguise how they are really feeling.2 Research shows that there is a major link between mental health and how young men interpret and demonstrate their masculinity and expressing how they feel can be seen as a sign of weakness.5
Dr Gaffney continued: “Rather than talk to someone about their concerns, young men are much more likely than women to use alcohol and other drugs in order to cope with worries, which can lead to other problems such as getting into fights, relationship difficulties and trouble with the police.” 6, 7
“Men have the same reactions to everyday stress and are just as susceptible to many of the same illnesses as women but generally women will seek help and support for their problems, while men tend to bottle things up, which may lead to a crisis. What we are saying through this campaign is don’t cover up your problems, take the first step and talk to someone.”
The campaign, which is funded by the Department of Health, Social Services and Public Safety, will run throughout June 2008 and includes television, radio and bus advertisements as well as washroom posters and beer mats. Further information about mental health issues is available at: www.mindingyourhead.info .
For media enquiries contact: the HPA Press Office on Tel: 028 9031 1611.
- Northern Ireland Statistics and Research Agency. Statistics press notice – mortality statistics for Northern Ireland (2007). Belfast: NISRA, April 2008.
- Health Promotion Agency for Northern Ireland. Public attitudes, perceptions and understanding of mental health in Northern Ireland. Belfast: HPA, 2006.
- Northern Ireland Statistics and Research Agency. Continuous household survey 2006/07. Belfast: NISRA, 2007.
- Northern Ireland Statistics and Research Agency. Northern Ireland Health and Wellbeing Survey 2005/06. Belfast: NISRA, 2007.
- Harland, K. HPA, Design for Living key issue papers: Masculinity and mental health. Belfast: HPA, 2008.
- Health Promotion Agency for Northern Ireland. Design for living. Research to support young peoples’ mental health and wellbeing. Belfast: HPA, 2001.
Northern Ireland Statistics and Research Agency. Young person’s behaviour and attitudes survey 2003. Belfast: NISRA, 2004.