Over the last decade, the male suicide rate, which is 3 times higher than that of women, has become a topic of public discourse. In these discussions, many have argued that the rise in male suicide is evidence of a crises of modern masculinity. Yet suicide statistics from the 19th century reveal a similar proportion of male suicides as the present day. This paper explores how the cultural expectations of masculinity were embedded in the narratives of male suicide in the 19th-century press, particularly as it pertained to the perceived motive – many of which still persist today. In analysing cultural perceptions of suicidal motive in the press, I move away from traditional Durkheimian categories of analysis and argue that suicide cannot be removed from the social context in which it occurs.
Lyndsay Galpin completed her PhD at Royal Holloway, University of London in 2019, with a thesis exploring the cultural narratives of male suicide through nineteenth-century newspaper reports. Her book, which is based on her thesis and titled Male Suicide and Masculinity in 19th-century Britain: Stories of Self-Destruction, was published by Bloomsbury in May 2022.