Wednesday, May 15, 2013

Billy Johnson II - Traditional Gender Expectations May Contribute to Rising Suicide Rates in Men

This is not surprising. In a world where traditional male gender roles are no longer valued economically, where macho behavior is seen as cavemanish, and where gender roles in general have become more confusing, it's no surprise at all that men who feel they have to live up to traditional definitions of masculinity might feel hopeless and depressed about their future.

This article comes from the Good Men Project - and they are seeking stories by those affected by suicide (not sure if their deadline has passed).

Traditional Gender Expectations May Contribute to Rising Suicide Rates in Men


Feeling trapped between a traditional masculinity and a progressive one can contribute to depression and suicide in men.

Despite strong national efforts, completed suicide is the 10th leading cause of death in the United States. According to the CDC, in 2010 there were 38,364 suicides in 2010 in the United States, a daily average of 105 each day.

Furthermore, these statistics are thought to under-exaggerate the total number of completed suicides as the data can be difficult to gather and this behavior often goes unreported.

Adolescent suicidal behavior has received the bulk of scholastic and media attention because suicide is the third leading cause of death for young people ages 15 to 24. However, the New York Times reported significant increases in suicidal behavior among middle-aged individuals, in particular middle-aged men: specifically completed suicides by persons aged 35-64 increased by nearly 30% from 1999-2010.

The gendered nature of suicide has been well documented with males being three to four times more likely than females to die by suicide. Men’s use of fire arms, tendency to stuff emotions, and low likelihood of seeking help are a few of the variables listed as responsible for the contrast in suicide rates between men and women.

But how do we account for the significant rise in suicide among middle aged men?

The New York Times article listed several possibilities for this trend including access to fatal drugs and the impact of the current economy, one of the consequences of this being higher unemployment rates. Furthermore, this generation may feel financially and emotionally burdened by the task of taking care of their parents or older family members while ensuring their own financial stability.

Depression and anxiety are often at the center of suicidal thoughts, and research by Samaritans, a U.K. charity which aims to lower the number of suicides, revealed that middle aged men who experience divorce or relationship separation, unemployment, and poverty are more likely to experience depression and consider suicide.

The researchers add that these individuals may also feel stuck between traditional masculinity, with its focus on emotional stoicism, and the more recent and progressive gender politics of expressing emotions openly.

Finally, they report that the ineffectiveness of some approaches in curbing suicide lies in the lack of a strong social conversation on the role of inequality in suicidal behavior. Men with low socioeconomic backgrounds are more likely than more affluent males to complete suicide; therefore, any approach for reducing the prevalence of this behavior must also include an analysis of the impact of poverty. This begs the question: how can suicide rates be lowered in a declining economy with such differing opinions of masculinity? What is in our power to do to help lower suicide rates among men of all ages?

In Canada and the U.S., the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline is 1-800-273-TALK (8255).
In the U.K., ring the Samaritans on 08457 90 90 90.

We’re looking for stories of people who have been affected by suicide. Please email if you would be willing to write about the experience.

Photo: ChrisHConnelly/Flickr

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