What we know about suicide amongst men
Men are identified as a priority population for suicide prevention, with a rate of suicide approximately three times higher than for women. Data provided by the Australian Bureau of Statistics from 2020 shows that the highest age-specific rate of male suicide can be seen within those aged 85+ years. Males aged 40-54 years have the second highest age-specific suicide rate and accounted for over one quarter (26.7%) of male suicides. 1
Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander men have an increased risk of suicide. According to the Australian Bureau of Statistics 2020 data, male suicides account for 74.6% of all Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander suicides. 2
The nature of male suicide is often impulsive and situational, meaning warning signs can be difficult to recognise. There is often no prior history of suicidal ideation. Evidence suggests that approximately 75% of men who experience suicidal intent lose the urge to suicide within 24 hours, with alcohol consumption identified as a factor increasing impulsivity in males, and impacting upon thought processing and decision making.3
Suicide prevention strategies for men should incorporate actions to reduce stigma, improve help-seeking behaviours as well as restricting access to means (particularly firearms regulation).
Protective factors that can reduce the likelihood of suicidal behaviour for men include:
- employment and financial security being married (particularly for CALD men)
- having strong personal relationships (particularly for young men and men over 65)
- being responsible for children
- restricted access to means (particularly firearms)
- religious beliefs
- cultural continuity, community empowerment, and other factors for Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander men.
Factors that may increase risk of suicidal behaviour in men include:
- prior suicide attempts
- identifying as an Aboriginal and/or Torres Strait Islander man
- identifying as an LGBTI Male, particularly an adolescent LGBTI male. Uncertainty around sexual identity, sometimes coupled with rejection or bullying, places males at risk of poor mental health and subsequently suicide
- post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD)
- chronic illness or pain
- relationship breakdown and/or reduced contact with children
- isolation or lack of connection to family and/or friends
- living in rural or remote areas
- job loss, unemployment, bankruptcy or retirement
- untreated/unmanaged mental illness
- alcohol or drug use or dependence.
- being homeless
- working within agricultural, transport, and construction-related occupations in Australia
- being a migrant.
Diversity of men
It is important that the diversity of men be acknowledged. There is no single community of men, with men integrated into almost all communities across Australia. Consideration should also be given to other identity-driven needs and roles men may have, which may overlap with other communities including:
- Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples
- culturally and linguistically diverse people
- LGBTI people
- people with disabilities
- people living in rural, regional and remote locations
- children and young people
- older people.
The causes of suicide are complex and multifaceted. It is important to acknowledge that a man may never experience suicidal behaviours or thoughts. The presence of protective factors may reduce the risk of suicide.
Australian Bureau of Statistics. (2020). Intentional self-harm deaths (suicide) in Australia. Retrieved from https://www.abs.gov.au/statistics/health/causes-death/causes-death-australia/latest-release?msclkid=dab46db0c6b011ec9726f06a4b3d13c3#intentional-self-harm-deaths-suicide-in-australia
Australian Bureau of Statistics. (2020). Intentional self-harm deaths (Suicide) in Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people. Retrieved from https://www.abs.gov.au/statistics/health/causes-death/causes-death-australia/latest-release?msclkid=dab46db0c6b011ec9726f06a4b3d13c3#intentional-self-harm-deaths-suicide-in-aboriginal-and-torres-strait-islander-people
Australian Bureau of Statistics. (2020). Intentional self-harm deaths (Suicide) in Australia. Retrieved from https://www.abs.gov.au/statistics/health/causes-death/causes-death-australia/latest-release?msclkid=dab46db0c6b011ec9726f06a4b3d13c3#intentional-self-harm-deaths-suicide-in-australia