Finding Hope: Suicide statistics show gender makes a difference

Monitor staff
Published: 10/23/2018 6:25:26 PM

Gender plays a larger role in suicide deaths than it might seem.

Although young women attempt suicide more frequently than young men, the rates of suicide for young men are astronomically higher.

In New Hampshire, about 80 percent of suicide deaths are males, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. That’s largely because men use more lethal means in their attempts compared to women.

“They don’t want to talk about their problems because it’s perceived as a sign of weakness,” said Peter Evers, CEO of Riverbend Community Health in Concord. “Because of that, they’re more likely to come to an extreme decision.”

Nationally, white males accounted for seven of 10 suicides in 2016 – with the highest rates belonging in the age group of middle-aged white men, according to the American Federation for Suicide Prevention.

Younger men who are not yet working or haven’t continued their education after high school are of particular risk, said Elaine de Mello, who sits on the Youth Suicide Prevention Assembly. YSPA meets monthly to review suicide deaths in New Hampshire under the age of 25 in order to determine patterns to inform prevention methods.

“It’s pretty chilling because even in one meeting – and I hate to use this cold term – but we could almost like a cookie cutter stamp of, ‘21-year-old, underemployed, living with parents, mental health issues, substance abuse, girlfriend just broke up with him, no known treatment,’ ” de Mello said.

Males accounted for 24 out of 32 deaths in New Hampshire among 20-to-24-year-olds in 2016, according to the CDC.

That age group is also at risk because of the intersection between mental illness, substance abuse and relationship turmoil. Thirty percent of people who died in New Hampshire by suicide had known relationship problems in the years 2015 and 2016, CDC statistics show.

Access to firearms is also a big one – firearms are the method used in at least 50 percent of all suicide deaths.

People who attempt suicide are most likely to use means that are familiar to them, and males are more likely to own firearms. Men who work in law enforcement and the military are a particularly sensitive group.

“They have a lot of trauma, they’re not allowed to talk about it and they carry guns,” de Mello said.

Although males are more likely than females to die by suicide, females report attempting suicide at nearly twice the rate of males. From 2012-14, only 35 percent of those who were discharged from a state resident inpatient facility for self-inflicted injuries were males, compared to 65 percent of females.

Surviving an attempt is critical because it keeps open the path to help. Statistically, nine out of 10 people who attempt suicide and survive will not go on to die as a result of self harm, according to the Harvard School of Public Health.

For parents, limiting access to lethal weapons and reaching out to young males who may be at risk are two important preventative tools.

“It’s social conditioning. Is it okay for a male to reach out for help and to talk about mental health and suicide risk, compared to a female who is very socially conditioned to lean on others and reach out for help?” said Ann Duckless, of NAMI NH. “When you look at the cultural considerations, you see all of the different components that go into having a heightened risk.”

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If you or someone you know might  be at risk for suicide, contact The National Suicide Prevention Lifeline 24/7 at 1-800-273-8255.

For additional resources, visit NAMI New Hampshire's Connect Program at www.theconnectprogram.org.




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