Masculine ideals, strong family ties prevent suicides

June 18th, 2010 - 2:11 pm ICT by IANS  

Toronto, June 18 (IANS) Masculine ideals of strength coupled with strong family ties can help men combat depression and overcome thoughts of suicide.
University of British Columbia researchers John Oliffe and John Ogrodniczuk looked at how men’s ideas of masculinity served or hindered them during bouts of severe depression.

Their findings shed light on risk factors and prevention strategies for suicide.

The authors analysed qualitative data from interviews with men aged between 24 and 50 years of age. The participants were self-identified or were formally diagnosed with depression.

The study suggests that men can best counter suicidal thoughts by connecting with others — namely intimate partners and family — to regain some stability and to secure emotional support from others.

“Support from friends and connecting to other things including spirituality is often the conduit to men seeking professional help to overcome the suicidal thoughts that can accompany severe depression” said lead author Oliffe, associate professor in the School of Nursing.

Men die by suicide at least three times more than women although it is women who are diagnosed at twice the rate of men for depression. Men aged between 20 and 29 years have the highest rate of suicide.

The investigators found that most study participants expressed a strong commitment to their families and turned away from suicide for the hurt and trauma it would cause loved ones.

“Here, men’s strong sense of masculine roles and responsibility as a provider and protector enables men to hold on while seeking support to regain some self-control,” said Oliffe.

But Ogrodniczuk said the “stoic warrior” ideal also presents a downside that can lead men to shut down and look for escape.

In these situations, study participants chose to mute their feelings or disconnect from others. They often overused alcohol and other drugs.

“Instead of finding respite from their emotional, mental and physical pain, self-harm emerged as the most common outcome of these actions,” said Ogrodniczuk, associate professor in psychiatry.

These findings will appear in a forthcoming issue of Social Science and Medicine.

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