With modernization, globalization, and advancement comes a new era filled with compassionate understanding for mental issues. True, stigma, biases, and prejudices remain, but the days of hushed conversation about psychological struggles are past us. Or at least, that is what society likes to believe. Despite ongoing efforts, a silent epidemic still roams even the most advanced countries in the world, claiming lives in its wake. Male suicide continues to be one of the leading causes of men’s mortality rates.
For a time, the men’s suicide rates decreased. This slight decline took place from the mid-1980s to 2006. However, since then numbers have started to increase. According to U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), from 2006 to 2017, the suicide rate rose by 2 percent each year, thus marking a 26% surge since 1999.
In Europe, men account for almost 80% of the population’s suicides, while they account for 75% of completed suicides in the USA. Analyzing data more closely, in the USA, almost 35,000 men die by suicide annually. This means that a man commits suicide once almost every 15 minutes. Similarly, the Canadian suicide rate for men is 3,000 deaths per year, meaning that every week almost 50 male suicides take place there.
Professor Dan Bilsker declared this current phenomenon a “silent epidemic of male suicide.”
Men vs Women rates
The numbers never lie; they merely point to one glaring fact: there is a gender split between the suicide rates of men and women. In the United Kingdom, out of every 100,000 deaths, 15.5 are male suicides. However, the percentage of women is 4.9 suicides per 100,000. Data even shows that in comparison to women, men are three times more likely to commit suicide in Australia, 3.5 times more likely in the US, and more than four times more likely in Russia and Argentina.
“As long as we’ve been recording it, we’ve seen this disparity,” says psychologist Jill Harkavy-Friedman, vice-president of research for the American Foundation for Suicide Prevention, a health organization that supports those affected by suicide.
A glaring gender gap
Yet despite all of these data, women are more likely to be diagnosed with depression and at risk of suicide. In fact, a large-scale 2017 study concluded that women are twice more likely to suffer from depression than men. In a US report, data found that women in the states report a suicide attempt 1.2 times as often as men. So why the obvious gender gap between male and female suicide rates?
One of the main causes is that men tend to use more violent methods in their attempts. Thus, unlike women, the chances of successful interventions slim to almost zero. Take for example the US’s rates again. There, suicide by firearms accounts for more than half of the total suicide rates. And since men account for the majority of gun owners in the country, the relation between them and successful suicide attempts is clear.
Another reason is the resolve in the intent. When analyzing the behavior of 4,000 hospital patients, a study found that men often have a higher suicidal intent than women, despite both engaging in self-harm.
From childhood to adulthood, society has an undeniable hold on these tragic patterns. “We tell boys that boys don’t cry,” says Colman O’Driscoll, former executive director of operations and development at Lifeline, an Australian charity providing 24-hour crisis support and suicide prevention services. “We condition boys from a very young age to not express emotion, because to express emotion is to be ‘weak’.”
This raising method is backfiring in the most gruesome ways. The bottled-up emotions, coupled with the desire to appear masculine, make asking for a helping hand a shameful act, even when life turns cruel and unbearable. Both genders suffer from gender norms. Yet, unlike women, rarely do men have the privilege of social acceptance when appearing vulnerable.
“Men seek help for mental health less often,” Harkavy-Friedman says. “It’s not that men don’t have the same issues as women – but they’re a little less likely to know they have whatever stresses or mental health conditions that are putting them at greater risk for suicide.”