Men Commit Suicide at a Rate of 3 to 1 over Women

By The Hunting Dynasty, Special for  USDR

Men kill themselves at a rate of 3:1 relative to women of any age (ONS, 2015). Yet, men are less likely than women to actively seek help. The common misconception is that men don’t want to talk. This is wrong – the messages by all and any suicide phoneline campaigns are not talking correctly to men – we know from our psychology study that men are most receptive to conversation when it is framed as a step to a goal, rather than any other approach, such as ‘just talk to us’  messages.


We had 114 men, aged between 20 and 75 take part in our online attitude, intention, and understanding questionnaire study. All participants answered the same set of questions about four posters targeted at men with mental health issues. Two of the posters were genuine campaign posters (Samaritans, Calm) depicting an individual figure, while the remaining two were created for the purpose of the study, and highlight group belonging and  support.

Three dimensions were  explored:

  1. Factors behind a convincing poster
  2. The most encouraging poster taglines
  3. And general responsiveness to conversation versus action-based encouragement

The results suggest that a convincing message relies on a combination of characteristics, including relatability, connection to anxiety, belief in change, and an outcome-focused call-to-action in form of a simple command. A sub-group of younger men was found to be more responsive to group posters. Finally, conversation and a goal-oriented, problem-solving approach were not mutually exclusive (with a slight preference for the latter),suggesting that men are likely to be the most receptive to conversation when it is framed as a step to a  goal.

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Quotes  ready-to-go

Lina Skora, Behavioural Scientist at The Hunting Dynasty – the agency that funded the research – and author and speaker on emotion and behaviour  says:

1. “Help services could be doing much more to encourage men to reach out. I can understand where they’re coming from now – showing understanding, recognising loneliness, anxiety, depression. And while we found these to be important components of effective messages, they’re by no means sufficient, and can actually be even more isolating on their own. A substantial group of men could be deterred from calling a helpline because of it. The current approach is not exhausting the  possibilities.”

2. Men do face a different set of challenges than women when it comes to psychological well-being, and we need to recognise that. If there’s anywhere the gender-blind approach is failing, this is  it.”

Oliver Payne, Founder of The Hunting Dynasty – the agency that funded the research – and author on behaviour and environment  says:

1. “Men don’t like to talk? That’s not what our research says – they do like to talk, just not in the way current suicide language is used to drive men to phone suicide helplines. It pains me to see ‘wrong’ messaging whenever I walk a round.”

2. “Those who conceive, and commission, messages for suicide helplines are doing it for the right reasons. But, even a cursory glance at the existing psychological research would tell the marketing firms and officers they’re on the wrong foot – and at least should give pause for thought, even if they can’t plan and write a robust psychological study like we did to find the  solution.”


This study was presented at the 3rd Annual Male Psychology Conference, London in June 2016
Notes to  editors
The organization responsible for the work is:
The Hunting Dynasty  – a behavioural insight & communication agency. We change human behaviour – we make it predictable, repeatable, and we prove its success. We are an evidence-based, award-winning behavioural insight and communication agency using psychology and behavioural economics to fix communication, based in London. Founded nearly a decade ago, our name is derived from our core promise – looking for applied psychological solutions (‘hunting’) that last permanently (‘dynasty’).  We work internationally, with clients in the UK, Europe, North  America.

The Hunting Dynasty is awarded for behavioural interventions:
NudgeAwards 2015, Gold
AURA Insight Impact Award 2016, Shortlist
NudgeAwards 2016, Shortlist

Authors of  study
Lina Skora MBPsS, MSc. Social Cognition: Research and Applications
Behavioural Scientist, The Hunting Dynasty
Lina designs and runs the experimental procedures and statistical analysis for The Hunting Dynasty. She is a member of the British Psychological Society and behavioural scientist with a bachelors degree in Psychology and Management (Joint Honours), and a masters degree in Social Cognition: Research and Applications from UCL, and has been accepted for a PhD on emotion research.
Her background working in European government and well as campaign teams for the a UK political party, as well as experience running charity accounts stands her in good stead with Hunting Dynasty clients, many of whom she has worked on, including successful pitches for Pension clients, and working on an international feedback initiative for a £2bn/year international pharmaceutical company, as well as all the behavioural research for our current project on increasing recycling behavour inhome in Bristol for Bristol Waste  Company.

Oliver Payne  FRSA
Founding Director, The Hunting  Dynasty
He is founder of behavioural insight & communications agency The Hunting Dynasty, media commentator for The Guardian, Esquire Magazine, The Telegraph, etc, author of ‘Inspiring Sustainable Behaviour: 19 Ways To Ask For Change’ (Routledge), which wrangles together behavioural economics, environmental and social psychology. He began working in digital startups in Liverpool, NY, and London in the mid 90’s. He was Creative Director up to board between 1999-2009 at Saatchi & Saatchi, and Ogilvy in London working on BP, P&G, Cisco, IBM, Castrol, Avis, Toyota, and Visa. He’s won many of the world’s top advertising awards and sat on judging panels. He’s also won awards for behaviour change communications. He is a member of the Influence Advisory Panel populated by academia, politics, military, government and civil society, speaker on behaviour at NATO (Latvia), Gov departments (Whitehall), Start-ups (Netherlands), Science Museum (London) and others, co-founder of the nearly four-years-old London Behavioural Economics Network which meets  monthly.

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