Men’s suicide rate is 3 to 4 times as high as women. This new approach may help

Men overall have a suicide rate three and four times as high as women, according to data from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. One reason is that men tend to choose more lethal means— most often firearms. Men are also less likely than women to seek mental-health help. And men’s anxiety and depression often come across as anger or irritability rather than worry and sadness, so conditions that can raise the risk of suicide can go undiagnosed and untreated. 

The Wall Street Journal Reports:

“Researchers are investigating new approaches amid rising concern about mental health coming out of the pandemic, and after years in which suicide rates remained stubbornly high. One study found promise in men’s groups aimed at building resilience and camaraderie, particularly among men struggling with the transition to retirement. Another asks men to create “hope kits” with reminders of what they have to live for, such as pictures of loved ones. Another study used videos to show men how they might talk to their doctors about suicidal thoughts, with language that frames getting help as a way of taking charge.

“‘For many men, by the time we’re in middle age, the idea that we should keep our vulnerabilities to ourselves is so overlearned, so well-rehearsed,’ says Michael Addis, a professor of psychology at Clark University in Worcester, Mass

“For years, middle-aged and older men were the groups most likely to die by suicide. The suicide rate in 2020 was 27.3 per 100,000 among men ages 45-to-64, and 40.5 per 100,000 among men ages 75 and older, according to the most recent CDC data. The rate among men ages 25-to-44 overtook that of 45-to-64-year-old men in 2020, to rise to 28.3 per 100,000. 

“Loneliness and social isolation are risk factors, and men tend to become more socially isolated as they age, Dr. Addis notes. Men are also more likely to self-medicate with drugs and alcohol, which can mask other mental-health issues and lower inhibitions.

“Health problems, physical pain and the losses that can begin to emerge in midlife can hit men hard, says Sherry Beaudreau, a clinical psychologist and lead investigator of a continuing U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs-funded study of a problem-solving therapy to reduce suicidal thinking in older veterans, the majority of whom are men. Dr. Beaudreau’s treatment, like some others being tried, modifies an existing therapy, which could make implementing it easier and quicker.

“Marnin J. Heisel, a professor of psychiatry at the University of Western Ontario,is examining ‘meaning-centered’ groups for men, especially those having trouble with the transition to retirement. Men complete exercises such as reflecting on the positive impact they have made on others and imagining how they can keep contributing to their families and communities. The support and camaraderie the groups engender are also important, Dr. Heisel says. 

“After 12 sessions, participants in the groups reported significantly higher scores on measures of life satisfaction and psychological well-being, and significant reductions in symptoms of depression and thoughts of killing themselves, according to a study involving 30 men ages 55 and older published in 2020 in the journal Clinical Gerontologist

Read the full report here.

Published by Tim Rowden

The Grief Project is dedicated to sharing the stories of suicide loss survivors as well as information and research on suicide, mental health, advocacy and prevention. I’m a suicide loss survivor, husband, father, writer and journalist, with 33 years experience as a reporter and editor. I believe sharing our stories can help help others who are struggling, whether they are loss survivors or struggling with depression or other mental health issues. We honor them and honor our loved ones by sharing our stories.

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