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Male suicide is a significant and spreading public health concern in America.
The highest number and rate of suicide fatalities among males in 20 years occurred in 2021 with more than 38,000 deaths. Male suicide death rates are four times higher than those of females.
Male suicide has really been overshadowed as a social issue by the very real mental health problem afflicting American women and girls.
According to data from a Gallup poll released on Wednesday, 37% of women have been diagnosed with anxiety at some point in their lives, compared to 20% of men, and those rates are rising.
Contrary to popular belief, men are more likely to commit suicide than women are to attempt it. The main cause is firearms.
More often than not, someone who attempts suicide with a weapon is more likely to die than someone who uses another method, such pills or self-inflicted cuts. Less than 5% of suicide attempts involve guns, while more than 50% of suicide deaths do.
An analysis of self-destructive ideation in 17 countries conducted in 2008 suggests that America may be the industrialised country with the highest rate of suicide attempts.
Many people who attempt suicide are conflicted and impulsive. A weapon usually makes the final decision.
Elly Stout, a suicide prevention specialist with the nonprofit Education Development, said that there is a lot of ambiguity even at the moment when the person has actually decided to make the effort. “There is a minute where you can change your mind if you take a lot of pills.”
According to government information programmes, 122,178 men and 19,297 women died by gun suicide between 2015 and 2020. These demises added up to almost 2.5 million years of lost human life.
Suffocation, the second most common method of suicide, claimed the lives of 59,382 men and 17,088 women during this time period. Suffocation typically denotes a fatal hanging or air supply being cut off by covering the head.
Drug poisoning, the third most common method, was the only significant suicide method that killed more people in women (16,678 deaths) than in men (12,641) overall.
The rise in male suicides in America is similar to the rise in weaponry. Between 2020 and 2022, the nation purchased about 60 million firearms as part of a larger cycle of panic buying during the COVID-19 epidemic.
In 2020 and 2021, more Americans died from gun violence than in any other year in history. The majority of those fatalities were suicides.
According to Mitch Prinstein, the John Van Seters Distinguished Professor of Psychology and Neuroscience at the University of North Carolina, “our suicide rates are quite connected to guns.”
Senior men are the market segment that is most likely, both in terms of age and gender, to commit suicide. The highest percentage for males or females of any age was recorded in 2021, when 42.2 per 100,000 Americans aged 75 and older died by suicide.
Julie Cerel, a suicide researcher at the University of Kentucky, claimed that some of that was “sort of associated to our stereotypes of masculinity.” “What’s the point of it all if you’re past your prime? those who have lost their ability to provide, such as widows.
Male seniors have experienced relatively flat suicide rates over the past 20 years.
The rapid rise in young people committing suicide may be more alarming. Between 2001 and 2021, the suicide rate for children and males aged 15 to 24 climbed by over half, from 16.5 per 100,000 people to 23.8.
In the same time span, the suicide rate for women and women of the same age more than quadrupled to 6.1 per 100,000.
Suicides among women aged 10 to 14 surged to 2.3 per 100,000 in 2021 from being essentially undetected 20 years earlier.
More women and ladies are dying from self-inflicted gunshot wounds than in previous years.
Cerel recalled that women used weapons far less frequently in the past. “It used to be believed that women wouldn’t use methods of suicide that would, in general, change how they looked, but it doesn’t seem to be the case.”
One obvious factor in the prevalence of male suicide is the ease of access to guns. Additional elements relate to the core of American masculinity.
Women are encouraged by society to be honest about their mental health and to seek therapy for anxiety, a skill that is discouraged in children.
“Boys and men have not socialised socially to discuss difficulties with their mental health. They’ve typically been seen as weak places,” said Cerel. In this country, men are expected to be strong, independent, capable of taking care of themselves, and self-sufficient.
According to federal data, women are twice as likely as men to seek treatment for their mental health.
And why are young people becoming increasingly at risk for suicide? A sense of belonging, which seems to be evaporating over the past several years, could be one factor.
In recent years, men in particular have had difficulty establishing friendships and romantic connections.
Nadine Kaslow, a professor in the Department of Psychiatry and Behavioural Sciences at the Emory University School of Medicine, said, “I believe we do not have as much of a sense of connectedness in our neighbourhoods.”
When I was growing up, everyone in the neighbourhood knew everyone, according to Kaslow. “That was changed. This feeling of solitude and isolation is what it is.
The country’s overall passivity throughout the outbreak was used extensively. In 2020, suicide rates significantly decreased. Why? just because everyone was home.
These rates did indeed decline over the course of the pandemic, the summer, and the break periods, according to Cerel.
It’s true: Over the holidays, people are actually less likely to commit suicide. In the spring and summer, “when people flee each other and travel abroad,” Cerel noted, suicide rates rise.
Suicide and privacy go hand in hand. People don’t want to pass away in places where their loved ones will find them since that would be hurtful and because they might try to save them.
Some of Cerel’s research studies focus on debunking the myth that a suicide victim’s loved ones are the only ones who suffer.
There was a long-held belief that every suicide left about 6 people behind. Cerel found that the number was more precisely 135—a large group of close friends and loved ones who could need mental health support to cope with the loss. Sadly, suicide can lead to other suicides.
Suicidality “opens for a lot of people where it had not been open before when they lose someone to suicide,” she said.
Uncertain role for social networks in suicide. Numerous reports have suggested a connection between Instagram and TikTok as well as worsening mental health. Scientists believe that those platforms could have benefits.
People who are marginalised can find assistance on social media, according to Cerel. And if you don’t have access to social support at home, you can find it online.
Suicide experts claim that our nation’s financial investment in mental health is in serious need.
According to Prinstein, all Americans could benefit from an annual psychological health exam in addition to a routine physical.
Unfortunately, there is no such thing as a psychological health examination, in part due to persistent misconceptions about psychological health.
Psychotherapists are overworked. According to Prinstein, the nation spends many times more money training its medical workforce than it does preparing mental health service providers.
As a result, rural Americans can find themselves living an hour’s drive from the nearest therapist, a situation that is difficult to imagine in the context of medicine.
There isn’t as much access as we need, according to Kaslow.
Make a call to the 988 Suicide and Crisis Lifeline if you are contemplating suicide.
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