Men and Suicide

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It doesn’t add up: According to the National Center for Health Statistics, American men are about half as likely as women to be diagnosed with depression, but according to the American Foundation for Suicide Prevention, they are three times more likely to commit suicide. Despite these conflicting statistics, scientists say it’s no great mystery why.

“Culturally, women are more apt to ask for help and to feel like that’s acceptable, whereas men often don’t feel it’s acceptable to admit any sort of weakness,” says Dr. Thomas Franklin, medical director of The Retreat at Sheppard Pratt Health System. “They suffer in silence.” The longer they suffer, the more likely it is that they’ll take their own lives — and become beholden to another frightening statistic.

“It has almost everything to do with the way they take their own lives,” Franklin adds. “They hang themselves or use guns, which are much more lethal means. And men are more likely to have access to guns than women.”

About 20 percent more likely, according to the Pew Research Center — and even more so in rural areas, where 46 percent of people report owning guns. Despite a nationwide — but still certainly incomplete — reduction in stigma, men’s mental health remains disproportionately misunderstood. According to Franklin, depression often manifests differently in men; rather than experiencing a typical depressed mood, they’re likely to react angrily and blame their unhappiness on circumstances such as job or car problems. They are also more likely to have problems with substance abuse.

“It’s socially acceptable for men to binge drink, but it’s very difficult as a male in our culture to admit weakness, ask for help or not be able to take care of your own business,” he says.

As part of the solution, Franklin recommends that men become more open with each other about their feelings and more willing to reach out when it seems a friend may be struggling. “[We] have to get better at taking care of one another,” he says. “We have to get the message out there that treatment works.”

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