We now have a Minister for Suicide Prevention. Well, actually she is a minister for mental health and also health.
People have campaigned long and hard for this and a large sum of money has been given to the Samaritans, a worthwhile organisation. So hopefully some good will result.
The problem is that to understand suicide we need to move beyond the confines of mental health and explore issues in society as a whole.
One of the most marked features of suicide is that, like homelessness, drug abuse or imprisonment, it is a problem which predominantly afflicts men. So understanding men would seem a good place to start.
Unfortunately the tools we are using to deal with male problems have been forged in the feminist armoury. ‘Men kill themselves because they don’t talk about their problems’. ‘They can’t deal with unemployment because they suffer from hegemonic masculinity’.
Feminists have developed theories about men without listening to men. Such tools are unlikely to be of much use.
Most worryingly, these tools are now penetrating deep into our mental health services. Martin Seager, a consultant clinical psychologist and co-founder of the Male Psychology Network, has described how the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders, which is published by the American Psychiatric Association and offers standard criteria for the classification of mental disorders, is being replaced or modified by an alternative known as the Power Threat Meaning Framework.
You can read what he says about it in full here.
In brief, what Seager writes is that closer inspection of the new model designed to address male suicide that some psychologists are pushing for reveals a highly questionable view of the male gender.
He explains that the new model has ‘the grand aim of replacing a psychiatric categorisation system for mental health with an equivalent psycho-social system. It is written using a narrow band of evidence by a small clique of clinical psychologists who don’t speak for many others even among our own profession’.
He goes on: ‘In no area of human science is naïve social constructionism more dangerous and misleading than in the field of human sex and gender. Through such a constructionist lens, the evolution of human beings as a mammalian species becomes totally and arrogantly disregarded. Biological sex is presumed to have no direct bearing on psychological gender. Body and mind are naively split.’
In the 400-page Power Threat Meaning Framework document, Seager notes that only three pages are devoted to men and masculinity, which he says represents ‘a sad indictment of current post-feminist attitudes to the male gender’. Worse, for ‘a profession that claims to be rooted in values of science and compassion for human suffering, these unexamined and lazy prejudices towards the male gender represent a complete failure to meet core standards. In essence, the PTMF takes a judgmental and a negative stance towards the male gender.’
Even though the relationship between male gender and suicide is noted, it is not even considered as possible evidence against its own theory of male dominance:
‘Instead the tragic male suicide statistics are twisted to fit the assumption. According to the PTMF, men must be killing themselves because of their own “hegemonic” masculinity which entails a pathological need for power and control.’
In a nutshell, the theory is that men need to change their masculinity to express their emotions differently to fit the gender neutral or perhaps ‘feminised’ therapies that already exist in order not to commit suicide!
Seager is scathing of the document and the approach. It is, he concludes, ‘unashamedly biased and a recipe for misunderstanding and negatively judging the male gender . . . It offers nothing practical that will help vulnerable men and boys and a lot that will reinforce or exacerbate their problems through prejudice and bad science‘.