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November 19 is International Men’s Day 2023, and this year’s theme is “Zero Male Suicide.”
Men are nearly four times as likely to commit suicide as women, but part of that is because men use more violent methods to attempt suicide.
Two years ago, Providence began a zero-suicide initiative in which primary care providers screen for suicide and depression on a regular basis.
At Providence, we’re aiming for “zero male suicide”
For more than 20 years, nations across the world have been celebrating International Men’s Day on Nov. 19 to honor men’s positive contributions to society, ranging from fatherhood to successes in the workforce. The theme for the day in 2023 is “Zero Male Suicide,” so Providence is shining a light on the high rates of suicide in men — and what we’re doing to help men of all ages (adults, young men and boys) move toward better mental health and well-being.
We spoke with Tyson Payne, PsyD, Providence’s medical director for psychology, about the quest toward “Zero Male Suicide.”
What are some of the most common mental health issues men face?
Dr. Payne: Men have very similar issues to women, with depression and anxiety being the two biggest challenges. There are a lot of social and cultural aspects to depression and anxiety for men, and a social attitude that men don’t talk about their feelings as much as women do. In many parts of our society, men feel a kind of pressure that they’re not “allowed” to have feelings. That leads them to a cycle of shame: “I feel down, but I shouldn’t. That makes me weak, which causes me to feel even worse about myself, which leads to even more depression.”
According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, nearly four times more American men committed suicide than women in 2022. Do you have thoughts as to why the suicide rates are so much higher for men?
Dr. Payne: Men have always had higher deaths from suicide than women. However, the flip side is that women make more attempts at suicide than men do. Why is this? Well, men are more likely to use more deadly avenues of committing suicide, such as shooting themselves with guns or hanging themselves. Women, on the other hand, are more likely to use methods such as taking pills, which may not lead to death.
What is Providence doing to stop male suicide?
Dr. Payne: In 2021, Providence began our zero suicide initiative. When patients see their primary care provider, they are screened for depression and suicide at regular intervals. We’re making it OK to talk about being depressed. If a patient has been having thoughts of suicide, we follow up with them and provide opportunities for support.
How do Providence providers approach men’s mental health in your practice?
Dr. Payne: It’s important for us to normalize that men struggle with mental well-being — that men have thoughts of suicide. If I’m seeing a male patient, I want to determine whether he is isolating himself, whether he is avoiding talking about feelings or other things that he may feel insecure about. Sometimes, men will come in for medical problems that aren’t that big a deal, and the real reason they are seeking medical help is because they are suffering from depression or anxiety.
What advice do you have for men who are reading this blog post and have contemplated suicide?
Dr. Payne: Talk about it. Reach out to someone. Don’t feel ashamed about talking to your doctor, friend or colleague about the fact that you are depressed. From a preventive standpoint, it’s important for men to have positive role models and friendships that are meaningful, so that they have someone they can reach out to when they are feeling low.
How can readers help someone they love who has talked about suicide?
Dr. Payne: Avoid making assumptions. The most important thing they can do is to validate that their loved one is struggling. It’s OK for them to take a friend or family member to the emergency room if that person doesn’t feel they can keep themself safe.
If you or someone you know is having thoughts of suicide, you can talk to someone 24 hours a day by dialing 988.
Tyson Payne, PsyD, medical director for psychology at Providence
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