Year: 2021 Source: Critical Public Health. (2021). DOI: 10.1080/09581596.2021.1908959 SIEC No: 20210353

An increasingly common way that high rates of male suicide are understood is via men’s ostensibly poorer abilities to talk about – and more generally seek help for – problems in general, and emotional problems specifically. This has led to the development of public mental health campaigns which urge men to ‘speak up’ more often about the problems they face. I argue that both the initial claim, and the enactment of this claim in public mental health campaigns, is problematic, resting on simplistic assumptions about men and gender difference, and serving to detract attention from structural drivers of suicide. Drawing on a narrative analysis of in-depth interviews with ten men who had self-harmed, thought about, or attempted suicide, this paper focuses attention on the content and contexts of ‘talk’. I argue that public health campaigns promoting ‘talk’ in response to male suicide neglect the interpersonal and structural contexts in which talk occurs, including considerations of power and structural inequalities.