Since 2016 Feniks has lead research on the suicides within the Polish Community in Scotland. By now we managed to conduct two research projects that investigate the rate and circumstances of the suicide of Polish men in Scotland, but also barriers to help-seeking.
There is evidence that Polish migrants to the UK may be at increased risk of suicidal behaviour compared with the British population (1). In 2016, the Polish Consulate in Scotland established a group to investigate the number of Polish people who had completed suicide in Scotland. While it has a role in investigating deaths in Polish nationals in Scotland, the Consulate could not accurately assess the scale of the problem, as Police Scotland contacted them only when they had difficulty in identifying the deceased person’s next of kin. There were anecdotal evidence and concern that the rate of suicide amongst the Polish population in Scotland was high and therefore needed investigation.
The group established was a partnership of local and national organisations with knowledge and expertise in data analysis, trends, and in the circumstances within the Polish communities and families who live in Scotland. The work was facilitated by Feniks, a charity working with the Central and Eastern European community in Edinburgh. The first meeting was in February 2016, and initially had representation from the Polish Consul, Police Scotland and Feniks. The group quickly realised that Police Scotland, the Crown Office and the Scottish Suicide Information Database (ScotSID) did not hold information about nationality. Some raw data was retrieved from the National Records Scotland at this time, but as they were not age-standardised and the denominator populations unknown, the figures were difficult to interpret.
This research is a follow up to A review of suicides in Polish people living in Scotland (2012-2016) conducted by Feniks and NHS in 2018 which showed that the level of suicides among the Polish men in Scotland was nearly twice as high as among the Scots.
The aim of this research was to explore Polish men’s mental health stigma and barriers to help-seeking that lead them to suicide. Through focus groups and a questionnaire we explored the main problems that impact the well-being of the Polish men’s in Scotland; the stereotypes around masculinity and help-seeking; sources of support they would be likely to use.
The research shows that Polish men living in Scotland are reluctant to seek help in relation to mental health problems either from people around them and from specialists. The participants suffer from loneliness, homesickness and difficulties in creating meaningful friendships with other men whether Polish or Scottish. Often entangled in the stereotype of a self-sufficient and hard-working Pole, they felt pressure to succeed and to focus their life on work, which isolated them even further. The ‘I can handle it by myself’ and ‘don’t want to bother others’ attitudes refrained them from reaching out for help.
Family is, traditionally, the main source of support for the Polish men in Poland (Czarnecka, 2019). However, those living abroad could not count on the relatives’ support. Parents living in Poland were found inadequate due to not understanding the reality of men’s life in Scotland. A Poland bound family was also of not much help in case of financial problems. This was explained with the differences in currencies and income levels. Only a romantic partner and less frequently friends were seen as a source of help. This, however, put single and isolated men at a great disadvantage. Despite the general reluctance to use any source of institutional support, whether coming from the NHS or the third sector organisations, about 40% of the participants were keen to see a psychologist. Many wished those services were more accessible and available in Polish.
Report is available to download here