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Men and Suicide: Why are white men most at risk?

Men and Suicide: Why are white men most at risk?

Chances are you’ve been touched by suicide in some way, which is no surprise -- the statistics are alarming. It’s the 10th leading cause of death in the U.S., with 1.38 million suicide attempts a year, according to the American Foundation for Suicide Prevention. Perhaps most unsettling is that 90% of those who died by suicide had a diagnosable mental health condition at the time of their death.

There are some stark disparities in both gender and race when it comes to suicide. Men die by suicide 3.6 times more often than women, and the suicide rate is more than twice as high among Whites compared to African Americans or Asians and Pacific Islanders. The result? White men account for nearly 70% of suicide deaths.

Many men still buy into the stigma that they should be strong enough to handle things on their own, and research shows that they do delay seeking healthcare, ignore symptoms of illness, and hold back information when they do finally see a doctor. This can be especially true when it comes to mental health conditions, which tend to be under-detected in men.

Depression is the most common condition associated with suicide. But, when conditions like depression, anxiety and substance problems go undiagnosed or untreated, the risk for suicide increases. Just one in four men who report daily feelings of depression or anxiety have spoken to a mental health professional.

Stressful life events, like divorce, financial crisis or loss, can also play a big role as environmental risk factors for suicide. The area of the country you live in can affect your risk for suicide, too. Research shows that people who live in rural areas are more likely to die from suicide for multiple reasons, including more access to firearms and less access to mental health resources.

Most people who take their own lives do show at least one warning sign. These can include:

Talk: If a person talks about killing themselves, feeling hopeless, having no reason to live, being a burden to others, feeling trapped, having unbearable pain

Behavior: Increased use of alcohol or drugs, looking for a way to end their lives like searching online, withdrawing from activities, isolating from family and friends, sleeping too much or too little, visiting or calling people to say goodbye, aggression

Mood: Sudden changes in mood, depressed or saddened

While not all these things necessarily mean that you or your loved one is suicidal, you should still take them seriously. Most often, when suicide is discussed, it’s the news that a person took his or her own life. But what we don’t hear about is how many people were able to talk to someone, were directed to get help, did get care, and didn’t go on to take their life.

While such interventions may ultimately involve the work of mental health professionals, they often begin with family and friends. If your loved one is considering suicide, starting an honest conversation about it can be the first step toward getting them help – and saving a life.

Resources for Individuals and Families:

  • Call the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline at 1-800-273-8255 for free, confidential support 24/7
  • Text TALK to 741741 to text with a trained crisis counselor from the Crisis Text Line for free, 24/7
  • Call 911 for emergencies