The Suicide Prevention for Boys and Men is a new IASP Special Interest Group. Dr. Zac Seidler and Dr. Kylie King co-founded the group in response to a need for a targeted, gendered approach to boy’s and men’s suicide prevention.
Global estimates suggest that one man dies by suicide every minute. Across the Western world, men account for 75% of suicide deaths and is the biggest killer of men under forty five years old. This is despite the fact that societal stigma around mental ill health and suicide is reducing as campaigns promoting mental health literacy and the importance of help-seeking are on the rise.
While men are far less likely to attempt suicide compared to women, the higher rates of suicide deaths in men point to a number of unique risk factors and warning signs that require purposeful attention. There are various explanations for the excess suicide rate among males including that they are more likely to choose lethal suicide means, use drugs/alcohol, withdraw in the face of stress, and are less likely to seek help. Masculinity – the socially constructed gender ideal for boys and men – built on dominant norms of self-reliance, stoicism and control, may be a key contributor to all of these explanations. While modern day masculinity comes in all shapes and sizes and has both positive and negative ramifications on men’s mental health, rigid adherence to some norms may exert a negative influence on male suicide. Importantly, male suicide disproportionality effects certain groups of men, promoting the need for a ‘within-men’ lens to understand and respond, with those most at-risk including men in male-dominated occupations (i.e. construction), veterans and first-responders, new fathers, Indigenous men and sexual minority men, each requiring a nuanced approach to suicide prevention.
Research in this field is steadily gaining momentum as we come to learn how and why male suicidality may look different and investigate the modes of intervention to best engage men in suicide prevention. But there is plenty of work left to do as despite the unique context of male suicide, few gender sensitive suicide prevention efforts exist and the rate of male suicide remains relatively unchanged internationally.
This SIG seeks to create a global network of those with an interest in suicide prevention for boys and men. We have a special interest in the social context of men’s suicide and the potential for health services and population level interventions to have a positive impact on boys and men across the lifespan. We welcome members from academia, clinical services, industry, community, and those with lived experience. The network will work to share knowledge, collaborate on projects, and increase the capacity of members and the global community to contribute to suicide prevention for boys and men.