Men and Suicide: An Alarming Epidemic

Updated Jul 17, 2014

Until recently, mental illness has been an issue that many Americans have been reluctant to discuss. In certain circles, it has been downright taboo to even bring it up. This has particularly been the case in regards to suicide, in particular, male suicide. Finally, the walls of silence that have largely kept the topic under wraps are tumbling down. Over the past few years, there has been considerable research and examination of the topic.

While suicide is a problem that affects everyone, it is an act carried out far more often by men. In just about every nation, men commit suicide at higher rates than women. A 2013 study conducted by the World Health Organization confirmed that male suicide is considerably greater than that of females. The reasons behind this gender disparity are varied and debatable. Nonetheless, one thing is for certain, it is a problem that must be combated.

Suicide is linked to mental health problems like depression and anxiety, yet there frequently are other external factors that are involved and are finally receiving attention. A related study conducted by the British organization Samaritans entitled “Men, Suicide and Society” has shed considerable light on this topic.

Researchers have speculated about other reasons men may have for committing suicide. These explanations suggest that, when compared with suicidal women, men who reach the point of suicidal action are:

  • More hopeless.
  • More clearly resolved to die.
  • More likely to be intoxicated and thus more disinhibited.
  • More willing to carry out actions that might leave them injured or disfigured.
  • More unconcerned with consequenc­es because of a high risk-taking orientation.
  • More likely to have a greater capacity to enact lethal self-injury.

What was more significant is that middle-aged men is the group that has seen dramatic increases in suicide. Historically, younger men have been the age demographic more prone to end their lives. Over the past few decades, this is no longer the case. As of the 21st century, middle-aged men comprise the group of men with the lowest levels of mental and physical well being. This is particularly true for men of lower socioeconomic backgrounds.

Today, middle-aged men transcend two different generations, Generation X (1965-’79) and the Baby Boomers (1946-’64). Boomers are the men who came of age during the sexual revolution and women’s rights. Social issues dominated the political, social and cultural landscape. They were torn between being the supposed rugged, impervious, Alpha males of their predecessors in the silent generation (men born between 1925-’45) or many of their fathers, while also being seen as strong, yet compassionate, socially progressive supposedly well-rounded men that the era they grew up in often personified and commanded. In short, they are confused.

The study found that the suicide rate was 10 times higher in lower income men than upper class men. This fact itself is not all that surprising. The fact is that loss of employment can be devastating to anyone. This can particularly be the case for a man (or woman) who may have had a six figure or higher income and suddenly lose it. Moreover, the less affluent a man is, he is more likely to see his job (particularly if it is a blue collar position) as tied to his masculinity. Losing this source of pride and economic stability is undoubtedly devastating for many men, particularly married men with families. He is likely to feel emotionally, psychologically and economically emasculated. Indeed, the couple of decades have been rough. The current economy, while improving, is still far from robust.

One thing is for certain, while the reasons for suicide among men of all ages vary, it is imperative that such men are aware of the health resources available to them in an effort to assist and prevent such men from becoming another tragic statistic.