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Men make up three out of every four suicide deaths

September is National Suicide Prevention Month and experts are educating the public about suicide to help prevent more deaths.
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Three out of every four people who complete suicide in Alberta are men, and half of those men are middle aged.

September is National Suicide Prevention Month and experts are educating the public about suicide to help prevent more deaths.

Dan Bilsker, clinical psychologist and researcher at Simon Fraser University specializing in mental health and addiction, said men are dying at a higher rate due to suicide partly because they don’t share their concerns or distress.

“Men often don't share their concerns or their distress or their suffering. They don’t share it with other men, even necessarily women – they're often trying to keep it to (themselves). Not just keep your feelings to yourself, but (they) don't tell (their) own story,” Bilsker said.

The researcher said women often get together, share their problems and concerns, and problem-solve together, but men often don’t participate in collaborative problem solving.

“Men are not trained in this culture as much to do that. Men are not taught really good psychological coping because collaborative problem solving is a really important mechanism of getting through hard times in life,” Bilsker said.

Another contributing factor to an increased suicide rate for men is that they are often taught to turn to substances to cope.

“Men are also taught that if you are going through a really bad time and you're suffering psychologically to use alcohol to feel better,” Bilsker said.

It is not because men are intrinsically or neurologically different, Bilsker said, but it is rather because men are culturally taught to cope with stress by using alcohol.

“That's really dangerous advice. Psychologically, that is a terrible thing to do because alcohol just inhibits you. It interferes with your thinking and problem-solving and it leaves you more likely to do something if you’re impulsive, like kill yourself or get in a motor vehicle accident,” Bilsker said.

“The last thing you want (for) someone who's going through job troubles or relationship troubles or unemployment or poor health – the last piece of advice is to intensify your drinking.”

Another reason the suicide rate for men is higher than for women is men tend to do less self-care as they get older. A decline in physical health and eating habits can be accompanied by a decline in mental health.

Bilsker said to help support men, there needs to be intervention at a population level to teach men better psychological coping so they don’t suffer as much.

Overall, Bilsker said women attempt suicide more often than men but men will use more lethal methods to end their lives.

“There's different explanations for that. I think it's because by the time men reach that point, they see no hope and they don't think they're going to be rescued.”

According to the Public Health Agency of Canada, for every one suicide death there are 25 to 30 attempts. Suicide tends to increase when the economy slows down, and according to the Resource Centre for Suicide Prevention, suicides in the trades and farming communities are higher than other sectors.

In Canada, it is estimated that there are 20 to 30 per cent more suicides in the farming community than there are in other work sectors.

Jennifer Henderson is the Local Journalism Initiative Reporter for Great West Newspapers, covering rural Alberta issues.


Jennifer Henderson, Local Journalism Initiative reporter

About the Author: Jennifer Henderson, Local Journalism Initiative reporter

Jennifer Henderson is the Local Journalism Initiative reporter for Great West Newspapers based in St. Albert, Alta.
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