Male Suicide

“Man up!”

What does it mean to be told to “man up”? To act masculine? To not show emotion? To not cry? To be strong for your family? To provide for them?

In 2016, there were 5,965 suicides registered in the UK. Men accounted for three-quarters (4,508) of these deaths.

In 2017, there were 5,821 suicides registered in the UK. Men accounted for more than three-quarters (4,832) of these deaths.

In 2018, there were 6,507 suicides registered in the UK. Men accounted for three-quarters (4,903) of these deaths.

Notice a trend?

The Office for National Statistics defines suicide as deaths from intentional self-harm (where a coroner has given a suicide conclusion or made it clear in the narrative conclusion that the deceased intended to kill themselves).

Suicide is complex and rarely caused by one thing. Many of us experience suicidal feelings in our life, but they are temporary, even if someone has been feeling low, anxious or struggling to cope for a long period of time. That’s why getting the right kind of support at the right time is important.

Dr Elizabeth Scowcroft (Head of Research at Samaritans)

Suicide is a complicated thing to understand. This is because, unlike other things, there are no two cases that are alike. Whilst there are trends in the causes of suicide, each case has a unique story. Whether this be losing a job, and experiencing financial issues, losing a family member (by death or separation), experiencing mental health issues and not seeking support, a combination of these, or even none of them. The list continues.

But, why are men more at risk? In society, there is still an issue with masculinity. There is an expectation of men to be strong individuals that show no emotion. Instead of thinking of themselves, they are expected to provide for and look after their family. When seen crying, they are often viewed as weak and feminine. A society like this causes men to not talk about their feelings. To not seek help when they need it. The fear of being judged, if they were to talk about their feelings, drives many men to their deaths.

Whilst society is changing with time and becoming more accepting, we are not quite there yet. We need to redefine what it means to be a man. To show emotion is acceptable. It doesn’t make you feminine. In fact, it takes a lot of strength and courage to talk about your feelings with other people.

Women, on the other hand, seem to talk about their feelings all the time. Whether this be with a loved one, or with a professional, they are more likely to seek help. Just look at Instagram- it’s filled with women sharing their issues with mental health in order to encourage others to do the same. It is inspiring, but it needs to extend to men.

There has, however, been a growth in charities and movements that target male suicide:

  1. Alright Mate. As suicide is the single biggest killer for men aged under 45 in the UK, this movement encourages men to look out for each other. Rather than building it up, it hopes men will begin to talk to each other about any concerns that they may have. Whether this be small issues, like arguments at home, or larger issues, like mental health and suicidal thoughts.
  2. CALM (Campaign Against Living Miserably). This campaign seeks to offer support to men in the UK. They do this through helpline services, their website and their magazine. It hopes to challenge a culture that prevents men seeking help when they need it. They also campaign with media partners, brands and ambassadors to spread awareness of suicide.
  3. Movember. This movement looks at mental health through a male lens, focusing on prevention, early intervention and health promotion. They do this through education, promoting conversations and pressuring the government to understand the issues that men are facing.
  4. Men’s Minds Matter. This is a non-profit organisation dedicated to the prevention of male suicide by building psychological resilience and emotional strength. They provide a lot of information and support on their website for anyone who is suffering.

What are the government doing about it? In 2019, they released the first ever cross-government suicide prevention plan where they:

  • Focused on social media and the latest technology in order to identify those at risk of suicide.
  • Encouraged local councils to take action and put in effective suicide prevention plans for their area.
  • Improve data to better understand the triggers that can lead someone to take their own life.
  • Greater focus on addressing the increase of suicide and self-harm among young people.
  • Asked social media companies to take more responsibility for online content that promotes methods of self-harm.
  • £25 million in funding to address the specific needs of high risk groups, including middle-aged men.
  • Ensured that every prison had actions in place to reduce suicide and self-harm.

More needs to be done in order to prevent suicide further, especially among men. Next time, instead of telling someone to “man up”, ask them how they are feeling. Whilst it may be a joke on your part, you do not know what that person is going through. Your comment may just tip them over the edge, especially if they were getting closer to talking about it. Instead, encourage healthy conversations because you might just save a life.

The Vietnam War

In the past few months, I have been very interested in historical wars. By not taking history for GCSE, and taking geography instead, I feel like my knowledge of history is limited to year 9- which consisted of brief lessons in the two World Wars. However, as I study politics at university, and have been studying it since taking my International Baccalaureate, I have realised that my knowledge of 20th century history is quite limited. So, since we are in lockdown and I have all the time in the world, I have decided to start researching major parts of history, as well as previous political leaders, in order to strengthen my knowledge further. So, this blog is dedicated to the Vietnam War, from start to finish (obviously briefly). I hope you enjoy it and learn something from it.

Vietnam is a country in Southeast Asia and had been under French colonial rule since the late 19th century. Whilst the Vietnamese wanted independence, the French continued to boast about bringing civilisation to Vietnam. In 1919, US President, Woodrow Wilson advocated for countries to become independent from colonial rule. In doing this, he communicated with France in order to ask them to leave Vietnam. Whilst he was given their word, they continued to occupy Vietnam.

At the same time, a man named Ho Chi Minh was advocating in Vietnam against the emperor. When he was marked for arrest, he left Vietnam for 30 years. During that period, he read into the works of Lenin and became a communist, wanting a free and independent Vietnam.

When World War 2 happened, and the Japanese invaded Vietnam, with little resistance from the French, Minh and his communist colleagues established the League for the Independence of Vietnam. Known as the Viet Minh, the movement aimed to resist French and Japanese occupation. After Hiroshima and Nagasaki, and Japan’s defeat, France began to reassert its authority over Vietnam. Minh saw the opportunity for an uprising and declared an independent North Vietnam.

After the death of Roosevelt, and the inauguration of Harry Truman, a new world started to emerge. With the threat of the Soviet Union increasing, the Truman Doctrine was created. This foreign policy assured assistance to any country whose stability was threatened by communism.

With economic and military aid from the Soviet Union and the People’s Republic of China, the communist resistance fighters in Vietnam began to strengthen. This led to the French defeat in Dien Bien Phu.

However, President Dwight Eisenhower said that this defeat could create a domino effect in Southeast Asia. This theory suggests that without aid, vulnerable countries will fall, one by one under communist influence. This led to the Geneva Accords in 1954, in which Vietnam was split along the 17th parallel with Minh leading the North, and Ngo Dinh Diem leading the South.

This agreement was not good enough for North Vietnam, who still wanted a united Vietnam. They built a route through the country, known as the Ho Chi Minh Trail, in which they used to support guerrilla attacks against Diem’s government.

In response to US soldiers being killed in South Vietnam, and the formation of the communist National Liberation Front (also known as the Viet Cong), John F. Kennedy sent 400 Green Berets to South Vietnam in order to help train their military. With no improvement, one year later, the US sent aircrafts to spray Agent Orange over rural areas of South Vietnam, in order to kill vegetation that would offer cover and food to guerrilla forces.

With Diem favouring Catholicism, and oppressing other religions, a protest among Buddhists began, with many setting themselves on fire. This led to a military coup, backed by the US, which led to the death of Diem and his brother. 12 different governments form after this, each leading to a military coup in order to replace one government after another.

After the USS Maddox is attacked in the Gulf, then President, Lyndon B Johnson, responds by sending pilots to drop bombs on North Vietnamese patrol boat bases. 2 of these aircrafts are shot down which led Congress to pass the Gulf of Tonkin Resolution. This resolution allowed the president to take any necessary measures against any aggressor in the conflict.

With the strength of North Vietnam increasing, from support from the Soviet Union and China, and US soldiers coming under attack again, Johnson calls for an all out attack and sends group troops to Vietnam. In addition to this, Johnson launches a campaign to bomb targets in North Vietnam and on the Ho Chi Minh Trail.

As of 1966, 20,000 US soldiers were stationed in Vietnam, with more on the way. At the same time, back in the US, protests against the war began. Although the government said they were killing 10 for every 1 US soldier, the people continued to protest.

By 1968, half a million US troops were in Vietnam. An attack on the 31st of January, carried out by the Viet Cong, led to the fall of 36 provincial capitals in South Vietnam- many of which had US soldiers stationed. With many more months of fighting, and more ground troops, the US and the ARVN (Army of the Republic of Vietnam) began to push the Viet Cong back.

In the lead up to Richard Nixon taking office, peace talks were in place. However, President Chu of South Vietnam withdrew from these talks when he was told by Nixon’s campaign that he would drive a harder bargain. By the time Nixon took office, 37,000 US troops had died. When US soldiers continued to die in Vietnam, protests strengthened. US citizens had lost trust in their government after not being told the facts of the war in Vietnam. Nixon had to change his policy. Instead of sending more troops, he sent rifles, vehicles and grenade launchers in order to arm the ARVN. At the same time, he began bringing troops home.

By 1973, all US troops were home. 200 marines remained in Vietnam to guard the American embassy and other buildings in the Saigon. Nixon assured South Vietnam that the US air force would respond if they needed assistance. However, after the Watergate Scandal, Nixon resigned.

The Congress were in no mood to continue aid to South Vietnam. They cut their funds in half which led South Vietnam to defeat as they no longer had the resources to protect themselves. President Chu resigned and civilians started fleeing. The North pushed in on the South, which led the South to surrender. The North went on to padlock and bulldoze ARVN graveyards. In addition to this, they sent people to re-education camps, destroyed villages and united Vietnam under one communist nation. Although they had help from the Soviets, this led to catastrophe, People starved, the standard of living fell and 1.5 million people fled, in search for a better life.

In total, 58,000 US servicemen were killed and as many as 2 million civilians, from both the South and the North, were killed. Although 58,000 Americans died, their lives went to nothing, as South Vietnam and their ally, the US, continued to lose their battle. Instead of winning anything, the US lost their troops and trust from the American people.

Equal Pay in Football

“If it’s just as popular as men’s, they will get it, because the income and advertisement will go into that. But it’s not like that, so why do they have to earn the same? I think it’s ridiculous. I don’t understand that.”

Frank de Boer (Former Manager of Crystal Palace)

When I think of football, I naturally think of men’s football. Now, you can call me ignorant or shallow-minded but it is just true and many people would probably agree with me. I wouldn’t call myself a big football fan, I know how it is played but am not aware of where each team stands in the league or the qualities of individual players. The teams that spring to my mind when I think of football are those like Liverpool and Manchester United- the big teams covered by Sky Sports and BT. I also think of smaller teams like Millwall and Charlton- due to those around me supporting them. I do not, however, think of women’s football teams or players as it is not covered as much. There is simply not enough attention and support for it and therefore, it is not the first thing to spring to my mind when thinking of football.

Before going into the recent coverage of equal pay in football, I think that it is best to start with how football clubs earn money:

  1. One way that a club may earn money is through prize money. Football is a very competitive industry, with teams fighting to win the league or cup titles. In doing this, they get paid, depending on how well they perform overall. The lower down they are, the less they get. Similarly, if they are in a lower league, they will get less money. A team that is in League 2 will not earn as much for their league finish as a Championship team, it is just common sense. An example of prize money can be seen when Manchester United won the FA Cup final in 2016, beating Crystal Palace, and earning themselves £1.8 million.
  2. Another way they earn money is through broadcasting. Sky Sports and BT Sports own the rights to cover all Premier League games. They paid 5 billion pounds in a deal that ran from 2015-2019. This money was equally split across the teams which gave each club roughly £81 million.
  3. A third way of earning money is through player transfers. Clubs buy or sell players to other clubs. In doing this, they make a lot of money. In 2014, Liverpool sold Suarez to Barcelona for £75 million.
  4. Clubs also make a lot of money through sponsorship. Brands pay huge amounts of money for clubs to advertise them. For example Chevrolet pays Manchester United roughly £50 million per year to have their logo and name on United’s uniform. In addition to this, Adidas pays £75 million per year to sponsor kits. All of this money adds up.
  5. A more obvious way of making money is through match day revenue. Money made from ticket sales, programmes, food and drink all add up. Football clubs are able to pick these prices themselves based on the support for their clubs. If there is a high demand on match day tickets for a Liverpool game, the club will naturally increase the price of tickets in order to gain themselves more profits. Not only this, but executive lounges, boxes and comfortable seats are also up for sale on match days at higher prices.
  6. Aside from match day, clubs can make money through stadium tours and renting out rooms for events. I had my school prom at Charlton’s ground and I can only imagine how many functions are held in the same room.
  7. Finally, clubs make a lot of money by selling kits and merchandise around the world. Big teams like Liverpool and Manchester United are known across the globe which can make a lot of money. From personal experience, I know that there are a lot of shops in Spain that sell merchandise for English teams.

After looking at how football clubs make money, let’s move on to the topic of this blog: equal pay for women in football. There has been a lot of attention on this topic recently, with the US Women’s National Soccer team campaigning to make it happen. Not only did the team chant “equal pay” (along with the crowds) after winning the women’s World Cup last year, but they also made the choice to wear their warm-up shirts inside-out in order to send a message to the US Soccer Federation. Further to this, the 28 players filed a lawsuit against the Federation. The team sought to get $66 million in damages under the Equal Pay Act. However, Judge Gary Klusner rejected the players’ claim that they are underpaid, compared to US men. The players were quick to respond to this decision, with US striker Megan Rapinoe tweeting: “We will never stop fighting for equality.”

But, is it inequality? Are these players getting paid less based on their gender? The answer is no. Football is a complex, highly competitive industry. Lots of factors have to be considered when paying a player. For example, will this player get the club more views and support? Will this player get more goals for the club? Is this player any good? If the answer is yes, then they will get paid more because they are earning the club more money. To put this into perspective, let’s compare two male footballers. Mohamed Salah is a well-known attacker that plays for Liverpool. As I have mentioned, Liverpool is a successful club in the Premier League. Lee Gregory is a less-known attacker that plays for Stoke City, a club in the Championship. Whilst Salah gets paid £250k a week, Gregory gets paid £20k a week. These individuals have the same job and play the same position, yet Gregory gets £230k less a week than Salah. This massive difference is due to a number of factors. Firstly, Liverpool rank top, or near top, of the Premier League compared to Stoke City, that are 17th in the Championship. Due to Liverpool being in the Premier League, they earn more from sponsorships, prize money, match day profits, merchandise around the world (I don’t recall seeing a Stoke City top in Spain) and of course, broadcasting through Sky Sports and BT Sports. They have the money to spend on their players. If Stoke City paid that much for Gregory, I doubt there would still be a Stoke City football team. In addition to this, I’m sure Salah is a much better football player (I can’t say I’ve seen them both play- just based on common sense), otherwise Liverpool wouldn’t have paid for him in the first place. Salah is also a big name in football, everyone seems to know him- I can’t say the same for Gregory. These reasons, in combination with each other, show why football players are not paid the same.

Now, if male football players are not paid the same, for doing the same job, then how can female football players demand equal pay? It is not based on gender. It is based on a lot of factors. If women’s football was as popular as men’s and Salah’s female equivalent was not getting the same salary, then I would be questioning it too. But this is not the case. The female football industry does not earn anywhere near what the men’s football industry earns. They do not get the same support at match days or get as many sponsorships, or even sell as much merchandise. They do not have the money to be spending loads on players or the industry will no longer exist. It just isn’t possible.

I’m all for equal pay across the genders, but this is not a gender debate. Female players are not paid less based on their gender, they are paid less because their industry does not earn the same as men’s football. It is just not possible to pay players the same. I’m interested to hear your opinions on this topic, and due to the success of last weeks poll, I shall add some questions to my Instagram story so I can see your thoughts.