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Suicide in men has been described as a “silent epidemic.” It has a disturbingly high incidence and is a major contributor to men’s mortality. In British Columbia, suicide is one of the top three causes of mortality among men aged 15 and 44. Among men of all ages in Canada, suicide ranked as the seventh leading cause of death in 2007. The silence surrounding suicide among men is also striking and warrants comment. Suicide in men has been described as a “silent epidemic”: epidemic because of its high incidence and substantial contribution to men’s mortality, and silent because of a lack of public awareness, a paucity of explanatory research, and the reluctance of men to seek help for suicide-related concerns. Firearms legislation and reductions in firearm-related suicide deaths in New Zealand.
But when it comes to hanging, the picture is far more complex.
For example, proportionally, women choose hanging as a method of suicide almost as frequently as men. Here in British Columbia for example, hanging was the most common method of suicide for men and women in 2009, accounting for 48% and 38% of suicide deaths respectively. This observation undermines a simplistic, dichotomous understanding of the role of methods (i.e., more lethal versus less lethal) when attempting to account for the persistent gender gap in suicide. Adolescent suicide, gender, and culture: A rate and risk factor analysis.
The broad term deliberate self-harm (DSH) is often used in the research literature to capture this range of possible actions. A global perspective in the epidemiology of suicide.
As one might expect from the suicide attempt statistics, women show much higher rates of DSH. Prevention We do not fully understand the complexity of suicide, including the reasons for the gender difference in suicidal behavior.
Promising lines of research include identification of clinical indicators specifically predictive of male suicide and exploration of precipitating and predisposing factors that distinguish male suicide and account for the substantial gender disparity. Gender, gun control, suicide and homicide in Canada.
Only by breaking the silence—building public awareness, refining explanatory frameworks, implementing preventive strategies, and undertaking research—will we overcome this epidemic. Magnitude of the problem Men have a shockingly high rate of death by suicide compared with women. Across all countries reporting these data (except China and India) males show a suicide rate that is 3.0 to 7.5 times that of women. In Canada, the male suicide rate is about three times that of women. Figure 1 charts the age- and gender-specific incidence of suicide in Canada, based on data from 2001 to 2005. suicide-prevention efforts have focused most heavily on the groups considered to be most at risk: teens and young adults of both genders as well as elderly white men… Suicide in the middle-adult years has not been studied as extensively. It is apparent that our knowledge of men’s suicide is lagging behind changes in the age-specific incidence of this cause of death. In Canada, suicide accounts for about 10% of all PYLL for men; in BC, it accounts for about 7%. We also need to look at suicide attempts to understand the gender difference in suicidal behavior. Midlife suicide: An increasing problem in US whites, 1999-2005. Although men die by suicide at a higher rate, women have a higher rate of attempting suicide.16 This pattern is evident among youth and persists over the lifespan. The ratio between suicide attempts, based on hospitalization data, and actual suicides for men and women in Canada, is shown in Figure 2. It should be noted that there is a spectrum of self-harm, ranging from acts of physical self-harm not intended to be suicidal, to acts that reflect ambivalence about dying, to acts that reflect a clear and settled intention to die. The male pattern showing a peak in suicide rate among Canadian men in their 40s and 50s is surprising in light of multinational data showing one of two patterns: a steady increase in suicide rate with age or a peak of suicide in younger age groups.[12,13] However, a change in this suicide pattern may be underway, at least in North America: Among US white men, middle age has historically been a time of relatively lower risk of completed suicide, compared with elderly men. Yet by 2005, the suicide rate of white men aged 45 to 49 years was not only higher than the rate for men aged less than 40 years but also slightly higher than the rate for men aged 70 to 74 years… When gender is addressed it is often treated as a static demographic variable as opposed to a culturally mediated social construction that intersects with other diversity markers such as race, sexual orientation, and age in highly complex ways.[8,9] Finally, given men’s general reluctance to seek help for suicide-related concerns, and the stigma associated with mental health problems in general, it is no surprise that suicide among men is largely invisible. A statistical overview of the magnitude of the problem within a Canadian context reveals that suicide claims the lives of nearly 3000 men each year. Screening for suicide risk in adults: A summary of the evidence for the US Preventive Services Task Force.