The statistics are staggering: men are four times more likely to die by suicide than women. This figure may be growing; men accounted for seven out of 10 suicides in 2014. Suicide is the seventh leading cause of death for men. Less than half of men who died by suicide sought professional help before attempting suicide, as opposed to around 70 percent of women. Despite these horrifying statistics, most people are unaware of the scale of this issue, which is why male suicide is sometimes called a “silent epidemic.” As a men’s health clinic, we take the issue of suicide prevention very seriously, and encourage you to reach out if you experience any suicide ideation (suicidal thoughts). In this blog, we will shed light on this serious issue.
Suicide and depression
One theory about the higher rate of suicide in men is that it is due to a lack of awareness about depression in men. The traditional symptoms of depression are more prevalent in women, such as sadness and excessive crying. Men are more likely to manifest depression in other ways that may go unnoticed, such as anger, risky behaviors, aggression, and substance abuse. Additionally, men are socialized to believe that they should be unemotional and show no signs of “mental weakness,” which may be why they are less likely to seek help for depression. One symptom of depression that both men and women experience is suicidal ideation. As depression worsens and these thoughts become more persistent, suicide becomes more likely.
While you can’t have a “suicidal personality,” there are certain personality traits and mindsets that make individuals more vulnerable to suicide.
- Perfectionism: The belief that you must meet the expectations of others, and these expectations are very high.
- Self-criticism: The tendency to be highly negative towards oneself and unable to recognize personal successes.
- Rumination: The tendency to have persistent negative thoughts about oneself and to be unable to stop reflecting on one’s failures.
- Lack of optimism: The inability to see the potential for positive outcomes in the future.
- Lack of goals: The loss of goals without a focus on new goals.
- Social isolation: The impression that one is a burden to others and the tendency to isolate from others.
- Violent mindset: A tendency to turn towards violence to resolve conflict.
While these personality traits are present in both men and women, men may be at greater risk for these characteristics. For example, men may experience pressure to be the provider of the family, and have high expectations for themselves to live up to this role. Additionally, men are more likely to be socially isolated because they are discouraged from expressing their emotions, so when men experience suicidal thoughts, they tend to not reach out. Men are also more likely to get involved in risky behaviors in order to cope with stress, such as drinking or gambling, which often worsen their depression. Finally, when a man attempts suicide, he is more likely to use a more lethal method, such as a gun, which may explain why women attempt suicide more, but men die by suicide more.
Stages of suicide
Recently, a three-phase model of suicide has been adopted by the mental health community.
Phase One: A person’s personality traits or mindsets (such as the ones listed above) interact with environmental factors and negative experiences to make them more predisposed to suicide ideation.
Phase Two: The person goes through a traumatic experience that worsens their self-worth, such as the loss of a job, relationship, or loved one. Unable to cope, they begin to contemplate suicide.
Phase Three: The person may attempt suicide. They are more likely to attempt suicide if they come up with a plan, they have an impulsive personality, or they know someone who demonstrates suicidal behavior as well.
If you recognize yourself or someone you know in this description, it is imperativeto seek help as soon as possible. Suicide prevention is possible, and the earlier the intervention, the more likely it is to work.
The good news is, there is hope. On a larger scale, more and more efforts are being put into place to address the issue of male suicide as awareness grows. There are a variety of organizations dedicated specifically to suicide prevention, including the American Foundation for Suicide Prevention, that are working towards more research into effective suicide prevention in men. On an individual level, the most important thing you can do is talk about it. If you are feeling suicidal yourself, reach out to someone you trust, or call the National Suicide Prevention Hotline. If you suspect someone you love may be contemplating suicide, talk to them in a nonjudgmental way that allows them to open up; just by expressing concern for their well-being and listening to them, they will feel more comfortable talking about their feelings. The important thing is to assess how serious they are about attempting suicide. If your loved one expresses a desire to die, they are at higher risk to die by suicide if:
- They have a plan in place.
- They have the means to carry out this plan.
- They have a time set for when they want to die.
- They express the intention to kill themselves.
If you see an immediate risk for suicide, contact professional help such as a suicide crisis center, and do not leave the suicidal person by themselves. If you find that the risk is not immediate, but you are still concerned, talk to them about seeing a professional. Make sure to be proactive and follow up with them about their treatment for depression. There are many options out there for treatment, including psychotherapy and medication.
Again, if you are contemplating taking your own life, there is hope. Reach out to someone you trust, or call or chat the National Suicide Prevention Hotline for help. If you are concerned about your mental or physical health, contact Men’s Vitality Center in Tucson today. We will do everything we can to help you. Schedule an appointment today!