Research we fund

Introduction

Jonathan’s Voice part funds research into male suicide that is being undertaken at the University of Glasgow Suicidal Behavioural Laboratory under the direction of Prof Rory O’Connor. Susie Bennett is the researcher on the project and provides regular updates on the progress of her work. An extract from Susie’s most recent one is below. Jonathan’s Voice is very pleased with the way the research is progressing and with the commitment and dedication of Susie.

Update from Susie Bennett - June 2022

If you would like to read a shorter version of Susie’s update, please go to our July 2022 Newsletter. https://jonathansvoice.org.uk/newsletters 

Susie writes

“The last few months I have been working on revisions for an important journal who are interested in publishing our Systematic Review. Our Review analyses 20 years worth of qualitative studies  (interviews and focus groups) with men that have attempted suicide and people bereaved by male suicide. 

We looked at 78 papers in total and aimed to bring this evidence base together to distil the core findings to help researchers around the world consolidate our knowledge of male risk and recovery factors. In 96% of papers we found evidence of norms of masculinity associated with potential suicide risk for men. 

These norms fell into three broad clusters – 

  1. norms that encourage men to suppress their emotions, 
  2. pressures to meet norms of male success and the feelings of failure that come if these are not achieved and, 
  3. norms that devalue mens interpersonal needs i.e the suppression of our inherent human need for connection, intimacy and belonging. 

 

These norms all interact. For example if a man feels like a failure – that he is not succeeding – norms to suppress emotions means he might not disclose this distress to others therefore creating potential distance in his relationship with others. 

We suggest that these norms all interact to both 

  1. increase some mens psychological pain and 
  2. diminish their ability to regulate that pain, and in doing so elevate some mens suicide risk. 

 

This is an important interaction. Often suicide is not just about a man’s exposure to pain in life – this is part of the human experience for most of us – but critically about the tools they have to regulate that pain. Our relationship with our emotions for example are an important way in which we identify, manage, communicate and regulate our pain. If many men are socialised to deny their emotional reality they are potentially cut off from a critical tool to regulate the pain in life that we are all exposed to. 

Suicide is very complex and so our findings do not provide a complete explanation for why suicide happens – no findings could – but I hope they can make an important contribution to advancing some of our understanding. 

Our revised manuscript is now with the editor for review. If accepted this would be a very significant achievement for our work as the journal is a very important one and rarely publishes qualitative work so we would be able to give our findings a very big international platform. So, fingers crossed! 

As always I am absolutely indebted to the support of everyone connected to Jonathan’s Voice. Your support enables me to carry out this work and I feel really hopeful that even though there is much that needs to change, our work is helping us move closer to creating a clearer roadmap for how to deliver those changes. The more I do this work the more moved and passionate I feel about the many ways in which the male experience is not properly understood or recognised and how important it is that organisations like Jonathan’s Voice exist to help shine a spotlight on this. Thank you for helping me do this work. “

Update from Susie Bennett - May 2022

I have now launched the final part of my PhD study. Working with people bereaved by male suicide and men who are suicidal, we are co-designing a research agenda for investigating male suicide.

Based on findings from the existing evidence base, many research questions need to be investigated to further our understanding of male suicide risk and recovery. However, the research world has limited resources to tackle these questions.

By asking people with lived experience which questions they consider most important, we aim to develop an agenda of priorities to focus the work of academics, charities and researchers. The research questions in our study are based on existing evidence of some of the challenges men who are suicidal face.

Nine leading global academic experts in male suicide are supporting the study and have reviewed the research questions and contributed their feedback. We have recruited 400 people worldwide to participate in the lived experience panels from diverse locations such as Australia, India, Syria, and of course, the UK. We hope to capture a rich and diverse picture of the key priorities to help guide our future research work I look forward to sharing the findings with you.