I worry about my brothers. I worry about the little one especially, who hates it when I call him that because he’s now 23. I’ve been thinking about him a lot recently, and the boys I care about. A few weeks ago, a boy I love was sectioned. Around the same time, another friend killed himself. Both in their twenties. Both such sweet boys. Both very different from the way people keep talking about young men around me.
We hear an endless admonishment of lad culture. People complaining that boys are binge drinking, laughing at rape jokes, scrolling through girls on Tinder, spreading STDs. I hear people moan about young men taking drugs, watching porn, racing cars, starting fights. They’re painted as pick-up merchants and harassers. Yet as people nitpick about The Trouble with Men, there’s a real and critical crisis affecting boys that hardly features in these conversations. Young men are killing themselves: not because they’re naughty or reckless, but because they’re depressed.
Suicide is the biggest killer of men aged under 35 in Britain. It takes more lives than car accidents, cancer or heart attacks. The incidence of male suicides has increased dramatically, vastly outnumbering female suicides. What we know — from the way the suicide rate between the sexes has fluctuated at different times — is that this is not down to biological difference, but to cultural change.
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