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Home > Pain and distress in rural Ireland. A qualitative study of suicidal behaviour among men in rural areas. Summary of report.

Cleary, Anne and Feeney, Maria and Macken-Walsh, Aine (2012) Pain and distress in rural Ireland. A qualitative study of suicidal behaviour among men in rural areas. Summary of report. Dublin: University College Dublin & Teagasc.

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The study was undertaken in response to an increased risk of suicide in rural communities with males being at least three times more likely to complete suicide than women.

Speaking at the launch, UCD Sociologist Dr Anne Cleary stated that the study aimed to identify aspects of rural living and male practices relating to health and wellbeing which could impact on decisions to attempt suicide. Gaining a better understanding of these factors is fundamental to devising preventative strategies, she stated. This objective also prompted the use of a qualitative methodology, which involved interviewing men who had engaged in suicidal actions about their experiences.

The study found that background factors to suicidal action included mental illness, economic difficulties and marital separation. Low educational attainment, limited job opportunities, multiple job histories, marginal farming and dependency on social welfare payments characterised the biographies of the men interviewed. Dr Cleary stated that rural factors, such as lack of employment opportunities, the stigma attached to mental illness, men’s attitudes to health and a narrow range of treatment options greatly reduced the possibility of solving the mental health problems of this group.

Commenting on the international context of the study findings, Dr Anne Cleary stated that the findings broadly concur with findings from similar studies of male suicidal behaviour in rural Australia, Scotland and the US as well as studies of urban Irish men. Dr Cleary stated that prevention could be greatly facilitated by social support provided at local level by existing farming, sporting and voluntary organisations. Such support could also help to address the issue of stigma and social exclusion, she stated.

From page 3 of the summary:
"Gendered attitudes to mental distress and help seeking were apparent in terms of participants’ denial of problems and negative attitudes to help seeking. The men generally adhered to a traditional view of masculinity which included the projection of strength and stoicism in the face of distress. When they were unable to meet these expectations they felt emotionally vulnerable and frequently used alcohol in an attempt to cope and to conceal their distress. The extent of alcohol use is evidenced by the fact that nine men (one third of the sample) had a history of alcohol dependency. Alcohol misuse was therefore key to understanding the development and prolongation of problems as well as decisions to attempt suicide in that alcohol was frequently used in the action itself."


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