Men are three times likely to die of suicide than women
Chido Madzvamutse Mental Wellness
As discussed in previous articles, mental health is defined as a state of well-being in which an individual realises his or her own potential, can cope with the normal stresses of life, can work productively and fruitfully, and is able to make a meaningful contribution to their community.
Up to 800 000 people die from suicide each year globally and men are three times as likely to die by suicide compared to women.
While more women verbalise suicidal thoughts and attempt suicide, more men actually die by suicide. Men play an integral role in families, communities and in the nation and the mental wellbeing of a man greatly influences the well-being of those around him. There is need to understand the factors that lead to these preventable deaths, particularly why men are vulnerable and work to address these and save lives.
Why do more men die from suicide?
- Untreated or poorly treated mental health problems: in many cases of attempted or completed suicide there is often some history of mental health challenges leading to the suicide.
Depression is an underlying cause of many suicides. Depression can cause a sad or low mood, fatigue, loss of motivation, poor sleep, changes in appetite, poor concentration, low self-esteem, feelings of helplessness, feelings of hopelessness and at its worst thoughts of death and suicide.
In men, depression may present in a complex way with irritability and aggression, even domestic violence; high risk behaviour such as speeding while driving or risky sexual behaviour; alcohol and substance abuse and emotional numbness and detachment.
All these may make it more difficult for a man himself, his family, friends and even health workers to recognise the depression and get help early.
- Alcohol and substance use problems: Substance use problems are more common in men than in women and in some cases may be the underlying cause of suicide. Some men may use alcohol and substances to self-medicate feelings of sadness, hopelessness and helplessness. Although alcohol may seem like it relieves stress in the moment, in the long run it can cause or worsen depression and can lead to suicidal thoughts.
- Difficulties talking about emotional challenges: Many men are socialised to internalise their emotions, to be strong and tough. This makes it difficult for many men to talk openly about their challenges or seek professional mental health services. Studies have shown that common reasons why men do not speak up about mental health problems include, feeling like they should be able, as a man, to deal with it alone, not wanting to become a burden, feeling embarrassed by their challenges and not wanting to be seen as weak, fearing the stigma of having a mental health problem. Due to these challenges, men are less likely to report symptoms of depression or other mental health problems and these may be why women are more likely to be diagnosed earlier and managed earlier compared to men.
- Societal and financial pressure: many men are under pressure to provide for their families even in tough times, many men feel like failures or are labelled as failures if they fail to provide financially. Unemployment and financial challenges can therefore lead to hopelessness and despondency that can then negatively affect a man’s mental health and in some cases lead to thoughts of suicide.
Signs that someone may be contemplating suicide
Many times when someone attempts or dies by suicide, those close to them may feel it happened without warning, however on further reflection many families who have experienced suicide realise that the individual did show signs that they were struggling. It is important that we all become familiar with some common signs that someone is thinking about suicide as this can help us identify problems earlier and help them seek for help. Some common signs that someone maybe thinking or planning a suicide include:
- A change in their mood: deep sadness, irritability, or a sense of resignation are common mood changes that could be linked to suicidal thoughts.
- Conversations that show a great sense of helplessness or powerlessness and loss of hope can also signal that someone maybe thinking about suicide.
- Verbalising thoughts about death and dying as a solution to problems.
- Socially withdrawing from family and friends.
- Giving away prized possessions and seemingly saying good bye to loved ones.
What can I do to help a man who may be thinking of suicide?
- Take any signs of, talk of or attempts at suicide seriously.
- Make time to support the individual and allow them to talk without judging them.
- Help them to reach out for professional help, accompany them if they wish you to do so and follow up that they have received appropriate care. If you think that you or someone that you know maybe struggling with suicidal thoughts, please contact your nearest health care provider and get help.
l Association of Healthcare Funders of Zimbabwe (AHFoZ) article written by: Dr Chido Rwafa Madzvamutse, a consultant psychiatrist.
Feedback: Dr Chido Rwafa Madzvamutse Whatsapp+263714987729) (www.ahfoz.org; [email protected])