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Broken Men: Males have a higher suicide rate than females

Suicide is a potentially preventable public health problem but studies show that men take their lives at a substantially higher rate than women and we look at why and what to look for.

When was the last time you checked in with the men in your life and truly asked them how they are? Well according to 2015 data from the World Health Organization (WHO), most countries, report that males have a higher suicide rate than females. In Canada states for example, males suicide is three times more.

On the continent the data shows that Equatorial Guinea ranks 7th in the world for highest male suicides followed closely by  Côte d’Ivoire 8th, Angola 9th, The Central African Republic 15th, Sierra Leone 16th, Swaziland 18th, Cameroon 19th and Zimbabwe 20th. The report however notes that the data might be skewed, as comparing suicide rates between nations is statistically unsound due to the under-reported or completely unreported incidence of suicide.

How do male potential suicide warnings vary from women?

Risk factors for suicide vary by age, gender, and ethnic group. And risk factors often occur in combinations. A large percentage of people commit suicide have clinical depression or another mental disorder. Many times, people who commit suicide have an alcohol or substance abuse problem. Often they have that problem in combination with other mental disorders or all of those can be exempt and the person commits suicide due to adverse and traumatic life events.

Read: Many Africans agree with Archbishop Desmond Tutu on assisted suicide: “Utata Tutu is right”

What causes depression in men?

Several or a combination of factors may contribute to depression in men.

  • Genes—men with a family history of depression may be more likely to develop it than those whose family members do not have the illness.
  • Brain chemistry and hormones—the brains of people with depression look different on scans than those of people without the illness. Also, the hormones that control emotions and mood can affect brain chemistry.
  • Stress—loss of a loved one, a difficult relationship or any stressful situation may trigger depression in some men.

Males frequently complete suicide via high mortality actions such as hanging, carbon-monoxide poisoning, and firearms. Methods of suicide differ by gender by one theory because men are more intent on dying and by another theory men are more likely to be more impulsive than women leaving them vulnerable to rash, spur-of-the-moment suicidal behaviour.

Prof. Deshpande of Auburn University USA on Frontiers in Psychiatry said: “this may support the fact that suicidal desire generally leads to decisive fatal action in males while in females, it manifests as depression, ideation and generally non-fatal actions.”

Male suicide

According to literature on gender and suicide, male suicide rates are explained in terms of traditional gender roles. Male gender roles tend to emphasize greater levels of strength, independence, and risk-taking behavior. Reinforcement of this gender role often prevents males from seeking help for suicidal feelings and depression.

Part of the gap may be explained by heightened levels of stress that result from traditional gender roles. For example, the death of a spouse and divorce are risk factors for suicide in both genders, but the effect is somewhat mitigated for females i.e. females are more likely to maintain social and familial connections that they can turn to for support after losing their spouse.

Another factor closely tied to gender roles is employment status. Males’ vulnerability may be heightened during times of unemployment because of societal expectations that males should provide for themselves and their families.

In 2003, a group of sociologists examined the gender and suicide gap by considering how cultural factors impacted suicide rates. The four cultural factors; power-difference, individualism, uncertainty avoidance, and masculinity, were measured for 66 countries using data from the World Health Organization.

“Cultural beliefs regarding individualism were most closely tied to the gender gap; countries that placed a higher value on individualism showed higher rates of male suicide. Power-difference, defined as the social separation of people based on finances or status, was negatively correlated with suicide. However, countries with high levels of power-difference had higher rates of female suicide. The study ultimately found that stabilizing cultural factors had a stronger effect on suicide rates for women than men.” According to a scholarly article by Rudmin, Lloyd Webster titled “Questions of Culture, Age, and Gender in the Epidemiology of Suicide”

Read: Eritrean child refugees committing suicide in Ethiopia

Recently it has also been found that one of the risk factors for suicide in men seems to be middle age. Historically, younger men were at greater risk than older ones, but this has changed in recent decades. Now, middle-aged men experience the lowest levels of well-being and the highest suicide rates (especially if they are of lower socioeconomic class; more on this later).

What to do

If someone you know appears to be depressed and talks about suicide, makes a suicidal gesture, or attempts suicide, take it as a serious emergency. Listen to the person, but don’t try to argue with him or her. Seek immediate help from a health care professional. If your loved one appears to be in imminent danger of committing suicide, do not leave him or her alone. Remove any weapons or drugs he or she could use. Accompany him or her to the nearest emergency room or psychiatrist office.

It is also worth noting the devastating effects suicide can have for loved ones left behind. Studies have shown, for example, an increased risk of subsequent suicide in partners, increased likelihood of admission to psychiatric care for parents, increased risk of suicide in mothers bereaved by an adult child’s suicide, and increased risk of depression in offspring bereaved by the suicide of a parent.

The International Association for Suicide Prevention (IASP) has a list of screened suicide prevention resources, guides and information and every country has a local crisis center or hotline that is easily accessible to assist in prevention and counselling.

Reach out today.

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