Suicide regularly ranks as a top 10 cause of death in the United States, with men almost four times as likely as women to take their own lives. Thoughts of suicide are a big problem. Talking about it, even worse. The good news? Most U.S. adults think it is preventable.

Who’s At Risk?

Anyone can be at risk for suicide. The main risk factors include:

  • Previous suicide attempts
  • Depression or another mental illness, or substance use disorder
  • Chronic pain
  • Family history of mental illness or substance use
  • Family history
  • Exposure to family violence
  • Presence of weapons in the home
  • Being released from jail or prison 
  • Exposure to someone else’s suicidal behavior (like family members, peers, or celebrities)

Suicide rates jumped between 1999 and 2019, with a small-scale decline in 2019. Suicide is the 10th leading cause of death in America, according to the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. It ushered in greater than 47,500 deaths in 2019, or about one death every 11 minutes. What about the number of people who think about or attempt suicide? It’s even higher: In 2019, 12 million U.S. adults seriously considered suicide, more than three million planned an attempt, and more than a million tried.

Myths About Suicide

  1. People who talk about it aren’t serious and won’t try it. FACT: It’s not unusual to learn after the fact that the person who committed suicide did, indeed, talk about it with friends or family.
  2. Someone determined to end their life can’t be stopped. FACT: Suicide can be prevented, and early intervention is one way to help someone with suicidal ideation.
  3. Only mentally ill people think about suicide. FACT: About 20 percent of people have thought about killing themselves at one time or another.
  4. People who kill themselves often choose to do so in the winter. FACT: There is no evidence to support high suicide rates. It may spike in the spring.
  5. People who talk about suicide are just attention seekers. FACT: Incessant talking about suicide is just one of the warning signs that shouldn’t be ignored. Learn more here.

Why Do Men Commit Suicide More Often Than Women?

According to the U.S. National Library of Medicine, there are many reasons why more men than women commit suicide. “Men are more likely to kill themselves because of the more lethal means they use, because of their higher levels of alcohol and drug use, and because they are less likely to present for medical care. General practitioners can effectively assess those at risk, and refer to their local mental health agencies, or treat major depression themselves.”

Mental wellness and suicide

Men and women seem to experience mental illness equally, but there’s strong evidence that depression is a prime force behind suicide attempts and, ultimately, suicide itself. 

Although most people with depression don’t die by suicide, the presence of major depression can boost suicide risk compared to someone without depression. Thus, the chance of death by suicide might, in part, be linked to the seriousness of the condition.

Warning signs to watch for in yourself or someone else:

  • Verbalizing the urge to die or to take their own life
  • Searching for ways to harm themselves
  • Talking about a sense of hopelessness or not having a reason to live
  • Talking about the sensation of being trapped or suffering unbearable pain
  • Conversations about being a liability for others
  • A marked increase in using alcohol or drugs
  • Acting agitated, anxious, or behaving irresponsibly
  • Constant sleep problems
  • Self-isolation
  • Visible rage or talking about getting revenge
  • Intense mood swings

Tips For Preventing Suicide

If you know a man – family member, friend, co-worker – who’s in pain and experiencing a crisis that could lead to suicide, there are things you can do to help.

The U.S. National Institute for Mental Health offers five suicide prevention tips to consider:

  • If you’re worried about someone, ask if they’re thinking about suicide. (Someone may be cautious about asking, but it can be helpful.)
  • Promote safety. Restrict access to lethal means for someone in crisis.
  • Be there for them and receptive to their needs.
  • Help them find ongoing support.
  • Stay connected and check-in to see how they’re fairing.

Final Thoughts

Men don’t like to talk about their feelings, keeping things inside that need to be dealt with. Sometimes, pressure, stress, and depression become so intense that suicide appears to be the only way out. But that’s not true. Psychotherapy, self-help, support groups, medicine, and ketamine therapy may reduce suicidal feelings.

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