Category Archives: Suicide

The One-Sided Narrative of Domestic Violence

Möbius_strip
The Mobius Strip only has one side and is not too dissimilar to the narrative on domestic violence.

The public is convinced that domestic violence is all about aggressive men beating up on defenseless women. While this is in some ways correct, it is only a fraction of the story.  The reality is that domestic violence is quite complex and women can be the perpetrators and men can also be the victims.  That side of the story though has been deeply buried and ignored.

How did the public come to be so misinformed?  It’s a long and involved tale.  Activists, clinicians, the media, academics and researchers have all played a part in this.  Each group has for many years only told a part of the story, the part about women as victims and men as perpetrators.  To get a good sense of this remarkable and lopsided tale you could read a report to Maryland lawmakers written by the Maryland Commission for Men’s Health that tells the story plainly about male victims of domestic violence. It does not pull punches and goes into more detail than this short article.  

It’s not hard to imagine how an activist, a clinician or the media might have a strongly biased stance that focused only on women as victims. They are all likely to have a vested interest. The activist wants more funding for their specific work, the clinician is tied to their patients and their plight, and the media will print whatever sells more papers. Female victims sell papers, male victims don’t. But how about academics and researchers? How could they play a role in this deception? One might assume that they would have an interest in getting the entire story in the open but that is far from the case.  There is no simple answer to this question but there is a fine piece of writing by Murray Straus,  a renowned family violence researcher that explains his take on this problem. (the Straus report is briefly referenced in the Maryland Men’s Health Commission report cited above) The Straus article describes seven methods used by feminist domestic violence researchers  to conceal and distort evidence on symmetry in partner violence. In other words Straus tells us how these researchers avoided talking about men as victims and women as perpetrators. The article is a remarkable story of a researcher explaining how his craft has been manipulated to tell only part of the story and therefore create a false perception among the general public, the perception that women are the sole victims of domestic violence. It is a must read for anyone who is baffled by this scenario.

Here are the Seven Methods outlined by Straus:

Method 1 Suppress Evidence
Method 2 Avoid Obtaining Data Inconsistent With the Patriarchal Dominance Theory
Method 3. Cite Only Studies That Show Male Perpetration
Method 4. Conclude That Results Support Feminist Beliefs When They Do Not
Method 5. Create “Evidence” by Citation
Method 6. Obstruct Publication of Articles and Obstruct Funding Research That Might Contradict the Idea that Male Dominance Is the Cause of PV
Method 7. Harass, Threaten, and Penalize Researchers Who Produce Evidence That Contradicts Feminist Beliefs

In this article we will be having a look at Method three which shows how researchers can choose to only cite evidence that shows male perpetration and simply omit any mention to alternatives. Straus explains that their own data may in fact have evidence of male victims but they simply choose to not include it in their studies.They simply ignore it and only promote one side of the story: female victims and male perpetrators. 

It is hard to believe that someone invested in the scientific method would stoop to such standards but Straus is 100% correct.  This has been done for years both in research and in the keeping of statistics.

In order to understand how this can happen let’s take a recent example that can show us how this works and also give us some insight into the mentality of those who might utilize such tactics.  

In September of 2014 in the Journal of the American Board of Family Medicine an article was published titled “Characteristics of Men Who Perpetuate Intimate Partner Violence.”  The article, as so many others before it, focused solely on men as perpetrators and women as victims. It estimated that 1 in 5 men admitted to being violent toward their spouse.  The media caught wind of this and a flood of articles were published with the headline “1 in 5 men admit to violence toward spouse.”

Here are a couple examples of the types of headlines that were seen:

psychcentral

webmd

Seeing these articles motivated me to contact the researcher, Dr Vijay Singh, and ask a few questions.  We exchanged numerous emails. In his defense, I must say that he was very generous with his time and civil in our discussions. He seems like a very nice chap but he did say some things that will help us in understanding the mentality of researchers who ignore male victims.  

The Gatekeeper

One of the first things I asked the researcher was if he had posed the same question to females about their violence towards men.  One of his eventual responses to this is below.  

“As I’d like physicians to think about asking men about IPV, a place to start is from the traditional heterosexual model of women as victims, and men as perpetrators. Eventually, physicians may get to a point of asking women about perpetration, and men about victimization. The medical community is not there yet, and may not be there for many years.”

So he is basically saying, doctors are not ready to hear about male victims or female perpetrators.  He would like them to be ready to hear about this but well, they just aren’t there yet.  This is somehow used as an excuse to not focus on male victims and female perpetrators?  It’s as if he is saying, “Maybe we will get to the men someday, maybe years from now.”  Imagine a doctor saying, “We have lots of diabetes deaths and let’s start with the white patients since that is where most physicians are comfortable, maybe someday we will get to the blacks. But let’s not talk about them since doctors may not be ready to hear about them.”  Would that go over very well?  Absolutely not,  It would be seen as hateful and racist but somehow if you do the same thing to men no one really cares.  It is also very clear that he is not willing to  point out to M.D.’s that males are indeed victims or females perpetrators.  That isn’t even on the radar.  Not to mention that the “heterosexual model” he mentioned has nothing to do with female victims and is a complete non sequitur.  (in this researcher’s defense he claims to have published research that points out females as perpetrators)

But Women are More Often the Victims!

This is a very common claim that researchers make in justifying ignoring male victims or in only serving women.  Listen to what this researcher says:

“Though women may report higher rates of perpetration, they receive more injuries from IPV, and women constitute 70% of those killed by an intimate partner. Because of the greater burden of injuries and deaths from IPV, we chose to focus on men as aggressors in our study.”

This is a very common excuse for those who are inclined to tell only half the story.  Let’s examine this just a minute.  Most research tends to show that males are a large percentage of the seriously injured in domestic violence.  The J Archer meta analysis estimated that 38% of the injuries from domestic violence were to males so I think it is safe to take this kind of claim with a grain of salt and understand it is just an excuse, not a good reason to avoid bringing up male victims and female perpetrators.  But look at the stats he quotes.  Women are 70% of those killed by an intimate partner. Yes.  Last I checked that would mean that 30% of those killed were males.  Therefore he is willing to turn his back on nearly a third of those killed each year.  To me this is bizarre and indefensible.  Blacks are 25% of those who die from heart disease. Should we have a “Heart Disease Against Whites, Hispanics and Asians Act?”  It’s an act that funnels money and services to the majority of the victims, right?  By this researcher’s logic that would be just fine.  Or maybe the Cancer Against Heterosexuals Act?  Would that work?

It turns out this researcher was aware of the fact that females reported higher rates of perpetration (we will get to this in just a minute) but he was happy to simply focus on 1 in 5 men being violent in relationship.  The only explanation that comes to my mind is that he is motivated by a gynocentrist attitude that thinks of serving females first and males as an afterthought.  

The Catch 22

This researcher claims that he was reluctant to alert physicians that men were also victims of domestic violence since, as he says, there are no interventions available.  Here’s the quote:

“…There is no effective intervention for male victims of IPV, or female perpetrators of IPV. Without an intervention, physicians don’t want to ask men or women about those behaviors. Your point that many domestic violence service agencies not wanting to work with men also complicates this issue.”

So here is the Catch 22.  Only those who have interventions available get referred and discussed.  Men get omitted since they have no interventions.  But how will men ever get interventions and service if they are not discussed? Seems like a fool proof plan to permanently exclude men and justify focusing only on women.  I do wonder what he would say if I suggested that there was a serious disease or problem where researchers didn’t have adequate services or interventions. Would he want to just keep that quiet since there were not interventions available?  I would bet not.  What we see is a callous disregard for males who have troubles.  He is insulated from any criticism  due to the profound lack of anyone in our culture standing up for the needs of boys and men.

It’s worth noting that it could be said that the interventions for female victims and male perpetrators are far from being proven effective but that doesn’t keep us focusing on women only and spending a billion dollars a year on the problem.

But wait a minute. It gets worse.

The STUDY

A public database was used for this research.  I asked the researcher for the raw numbers for females admitting violence and he refused saying I needed to find a statistician to help me obtain that data.  That smelled a little stinky to me and it made me wonder if he had something to hide.  I went about figuring a way to get the data myself and was pleasantly surprised to find that it was open for anyone to see and was online to boot!   

I taught myself the basics to get to this raw data and first looked into the ways the data was collected. They used two questions which were drawn from a nationally representative database. (NCS-R) One of the two questions asked about the respondent’s usage of minor violence towards their spouse and the other asked about severe violence.  The responses were broken down into four possibilities which detailed how often the behaviors occurred:

a. never
b. rarely
c. sometimes
d. often

These categories gave one a sense of the frequency of the behaviors being studied.  But here is the kicker.   The researchers didn’t use these four responses even though they were available on the database.  Here’s a quote from the research paper that describes what they didi:

In brief, the dependent variable IPV perpetration was assessed by asking: “Over the course of your relationship, how often have you ever done any of these things (pushed, grabbed, or shoved; threw something; slapped or hit; kicked, bit, or hit with a fist; beat up; choked; burned or scalded; threatened with a knife or gun) to your current spouse/partner?” Responses included often, sometimes, rarely, or never. We dichotomized responses into any/none.

In other words, by “dichotomized” they mean they turned all the different four responses into either “yes” I committed violence or “no” I did not commit violence.  They took any answer that was not “never ” as constituting an incident of domestic violence. With no way of interpreting the frequency of these behaviors we are left just guessing unnecessarily.  This limits the usefulness of the data. The chart below gives you a quick look at all the answers that were not “Never.” It shows all of the positive responses (the admissions of violence) to the two questions from the database where respondents answered “Rarely”, “Sometimes” and “Often.” Notice that 87% of these responses were “Rarely.” Knowing that the vast majority have answered rarely puts a very different spin on the data.  But since the study has removed this information it leaves the reader unaware of any frequency information and it is anyone’s guess what people will assume. If you only read their study with their dichotomized data and don’t know about this detail of the data you might assume that all of those responses were incidents of serious violence. Have a look at this chart and see how the vast majority of answers were “Rarely” (457) and there were very few “Sometimes” (63) and fewer still “Often.” (7)   

all-responses

Why would researchers do this sort of thing? I am not sure what their reasons were but it is clear that by counting the incidences as they did it will tend to inflate the appearance of domestic violence.  This gave them the ability to make the claim that 1 in five men “admitted” to being violent towards their spouse.  Just imagine if they had not dumbed down the data.  They would have had to say “One in five men admitted to rarely being violent towards his spouse and one in 1000 answered “Often.’  It just loses its sexiness doesn’t it?  

Then the question arises why would any researcher want to diminish the information in his data?  It might have been very instructive if they could differentiate the different levels of frequency of violence.  They could then say things like “Those men who claimed to “often” use violence towards their spouse were more likely to x than the men who said “rarely.”  This could be very helpful information to clinicians, law enforcement, and many others but we simply don’t see that level of detail since the data has been “dichotomized.” My guess is that the motive here is to inflate the appearance of domestic violence and by doing this they get more likelihood of funding for their next study.   But this is just my guess.

When people think about domestic violence they are often thinking of someone being severely beaten. They are not thinking of someone who gave a gentle push or grabbed an arm in a moment of irritation and both parties then calming down shortly thereafter.  But the way these questions were asked all of the “rarely” responses could be just that: a momentary irritation.  One of the questions asked a list of behaviors including if you had ever pushed or grabbed  your spouse.  If you pushed your spouse 20 years ago and never pushed her again you would answer yes to this question and would be counted as someone who admitted to violence in relationship. The way the questions were worded leaves us wondering about the severity of violence associated with the “Rarely” responses. It is possible that with the wording of the questions that the “Rarely” category might be a slight push every twenty years. So just to experiment, let’s exclude these “rarely ” responses and only count the “sometimes” and “often” responses as being evidence of more serious domestic violence the situation changes dramatically.  Now instead of being 1 in 5 it is more like 1 in 50.  Even that I think is not accurate.  If you exclude the sometimes responses and only count for the question about severe violence the figure drops to 1 fifth of one percent .17% (about 1 in 500) Very very low but these researchers tried to paint a picture using all of the positive responses as being a “yes” thus creating the appearance of a more widespread problem. 

But with these caveats let’s accept this as it is and move on.

We have seen how this researcher harbors ideas that are likely to diminish the chances of male victims being highlighted.  We have seen how the data was “dichotomized” and how this may have altered the meaning of the numbers to the general public.  Now let’s turn to the stunning fact that the database he used for this study to show how 1 in 5 men admitted to being violent with their spouse actually showed that women admitted to more violence in relationship than did the men, sometimes by as much as double.  Let’s look at each of the two questions. 

Here’s the first:

MR42. F (RB, PG 56)
People handle disagreements in many different ways. Over the course of your relationship, how often have you ever done any of these things on List A to your [(current)] [(spouse/partner)] – often, sometimes, rarely or never?

         List A
          ·  Pushed, grabbed or shoved
· Threw something
· Slapped, hit, or spanked

Let’s have a look at a chart that shows both men’s and women’s response to that question.

admits-min-viol-full2

Note that the majority of responses were “Never” with “Rarely” coming in a distant second.  Then note that the “Sometimes” and “Often” responses are a very small number in comparison.  You will see that of the responses that admitted to any violence (rarely, sometimes, and often) the female totals were always higher than the males.  In the sometimes and often responses they were almost double. This is remarkable but it got buried by the researchers only focusing on male violence.  Also note that the males admitting to minor violence are about 15.5% of the total while the females admitting minor violence are about 21%.  That is quite a gap.

So we can easily see that the researcher simply ignored the female data.  It was there but he chose to turn his head. 

Next up is the question about severe violence. Here is the question as it was asked:


MR44. F (RB, PG 56)
Now looking at List B, over the course of your relationship, how often have you ever done any of the things on List B to your [(spouse/partner)] – often, sometimes, rarely, or never?

LIST B
Kicked, bit or hit with a fist
Beat up
Choked
Burned or scalded
Threatened with a knife or gun

See the chart below and notice that the same patterns play out in this chart with the major difference being that the numbers are sharply diminished.  Again notice that the female numbers are always higher than the males and in the “sometimes” and “often” responses are double or more.

admit-seve-viol-full2

This seems like a very important difference that is contrary to the stereotype that has become the norm.  The least that needs to be done is for the researchers to attempt to explain this difference.  I am willing to bet that their explanation would  focus on the man’s unwillingness to tell the truth.  This explanation might have some credibility since men are far more likely to face harsh judgement and shaming for admitting hitting a woman while women do not face nearly the same sorts of judgements for hitting men.  But the data does not support this idea.  There were other questions on this same database about domestic violence and one of those asked the respondent for the frequency of how often the spouse hit them.  If we assume that men were lying about their violence we would expect that the women’s responses to how often their spouse was violent towards them would show that their masculine partners were more violent and the women’s numbers about the men being violent would be greater than the men’s numbers.  But that is not what the responses show.  The responses show that women reported that men hit them less than the men report the women hitting them.  This seems to support the idea that women are more violent in relationships (at least in this sample) just as the raw data from these questions suggests.

It is also worth noting that just as the researchers “dichotomized” the Rarely, Sometimes and Often responses into yes or no, they have also combined the question about severe violence and minor violence into one unit that is expressed as a yes or no.  If someone answered affirmatively to either of these questions it was counted as an incident of violence. But keep in mind that there were nearly seven times as many affirmative responses to the question about minor violence when compared to the severe violence.  These important differences disappear when the data is simply totaled and you ignore both the frequency and the severity. Again, the same theme plays out that “dichotomizing” the data and now the questions puts strong and unnecessary limits on its usefulness.  The only reasons I can imagine they would want to do this would be to inflate the appearance of domestic violence. Just as the activists, media and so many others try to paint an exaggerated picture we now see the researchers apparently taking a similar path.

It seems to me that List B is more representative of what most of us consider domestic violence.  Kicking, beating up, choking, threatening with knife or gun etc.  These are indicators of serious violence.  If we only look at the percentages of this question we see that the number of females admitting severe violence totaled 3.1% (approx. 1 in 32) while the males admitting severe violence totaled 2.2% (approx. 1 in 45).  That says that nearly 60% of those admitting to severe violence are women.  What?  Has anyone heard any research that points to those numbers?  No.  And that is the point of this article.  We have heard only half the story and as evidenced by this research the numbers were there, the researchers simply opted to ignore them thus leaving most of us in the dark about the realities of domestic violence.

Conclusion

We have seen how the ideas and attitudes of the researcher played out in only reporting one side of this story.  We have seen how the “dichotomizing” of the data and the questions basically dumbed down the data and made if less useful by making it a simple yes or no. We have seen how very shocking and informative data that conclusively shows that women admitted to being more violent in relationship was ignored and unreported.  This all facilitates the promotion of the default narrative of women as victims and men as perpetrators by only telling the story about male perpetrators and female victims.   We have seen how this works and the powerful national media’s willingness to promote this half story on a national level.

Look at the headline below. Now you know this headline should actually read “1 in 4 American Women admit to domestic violence.”


feministing2

Can you imagine seeing an article like the one pictured below in  a mainstream media publication?  I would bet not.  But like it or not, that is actually the truth.

newspaper (1)

It’s time we started holding researchers, the media and all of those connected to domestic violence accountable.  This charade has gone on far too long.

NASW News Ignores the Pain and Hardship of Men and Boys

newsBanner

NASW is mandated by its own code of ethics to be there for those in need.  Sadly, it seems that those in need are defined as those who fit the narrative of political correctness.  Men and boys don’t fit that narrative and simply need not apply.  I could give you numerous examples but here is a start:

I was reading the NASW News a national monthly publication for NASW and noticed an article on suicide.  I was aware of NASW’s past history of focusing on girls and suicide even though 80% of completed suicides are males.  I read the article and found that there was no mention of men and boys being the vast majority of those completing suicide.  I wrote the author a letter which he was kind enough to print in the May edition.  Here’s the letter to the editor: (bold text was in the original letter but omitted by NASW)

– I just read your article on suicide in the NASW News.  I am both saddened and shocked that there was no mention of the fact that males comprise 80% of those who complete suicide.  80%.  Jut imagine for a minute that some other malady had 80% of the victims be female or black or just about any other demographic.  Under those circumstances the article would have likely featured entire sections on this or that group that face the bulk of the problem. The least they would have done would be to call attention to the group most impacted.  Why not so with men?  Sadly this is not a new problem.  NASW has been ignoring men as victims of suicide for many years having sponsored research on the suicide of women even though women are a fraction of those who actually complete suicide.

The obvious importance of the 80% stat is that men comprise a group that is unlikely to seek help in traditional settings.  If people are very serious about wanting to help with suicide they had better start figuring out what might help men and how to attract men to treatment.  At this point we are failing miserably and that is important for Social Workers to know.  Finland was the world’s first country to take actions to help men and they have had considerable success.  Australia is starting to work in that direction.  The US is a Neanderthal with the media blacking out this important bit of information.

It is an embarrassment to me that NASW maintains such a sexist and misandrist attitude towards men and their difficulties.  NASW was at the forefront of creating a White House Council on Women and Girls but when NASW was approached about supporting a proposed White House Council on Boys and Men they at first said they would look into it, but failed in ever responding, even after being prompted.  Many wonder why there are not more men in Social Work.  It seems clear enough to me.

I wrote a report on men and suicide when I served as the vice chairman of the Maryland Commission for Men’s Health.  If you have any interest you can see the official version here (appendix D): http://dlslibrary.state.md.us/publications/Exec/DHMH/HG13-2407_2010(add).pdf

Maryland Report — Boys, Men, and Suicide

Men and boys comprise nearly 80% of all completed suicides in the United States.1  With this sort of number one would assume that there would be services that focus specifically on suicidal males.  Surprisingly, there are almost no programs that focus on helping men and boys who might be suicidal.  Sadly, Maryland is no exception to this rule. Maryland traditionally has very active programs to address the issues of suicide but does not seem to have any programs specifically addressing men or boys.

Even more surprising is how difficult it is to secure funding to study this disparity.   Lanny Berman, the Executive Director of the American Association for Suicidology, made the following statement in the San Francisco Chronicle in 2006:  “As much as I would love to lead the charge [in finding out why boys kill themselves], try to go out and get funding for it.”2  Berman’s statement expresses his frustration that funders aren’t interested in studying boys and men.  Berman is not alone; organizations such as the National Association of Social Workers (NASW) have voiced similar sentiments. NASW ran a study on suicidal girls in 2008.  When asked about their reasons for studying girls rather than boys, Elizabeth Clarke, the NASW Executive Director, stated that the funder specified the money was dedicated to studying girls.3  In the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services 200+ page document titled “National Strategy for Suicide Prevention: Goals and Objectives for Action,”  they only mention men and boys once: in a sidebar that indicates: “Over half of all suicides occur in adult men ages 25-65.”4   Even this important document seems to negate the stark reality of the 80% of suicides completed by males; there simply seems to be very little interest in learning about men and boys and why they are more prone to kill themselves or how we can help them.

There is a common misconception that men die from suicide much more frequently than women do due to their choice of more lethal means.  At first this seems to be a reasonable assumption.  In 2004, 20,500 men committed suicide using the lethal means of fireams and hanging, but that same year, only 3,583 women used the same lethal means in completing suicide.5  At first glance, this data seems to indicate that  men must choose more lethal means and therefore are more likely to commit suicide.  Looking a little bit closer, one finds that men choose lethal means to end their own lives in 79% of male suicides.  However, what most people seem to miss is that women choose the same lethal means to end their own lives in 51% of female suicides. While the difference between 79% and 51% is significant, it in no way is a strong enough difference to account for the four to one ratio for overall suicide rates.  There is obviously something else at work and we are simply not aware of this difference, nor is anyone making any efforts to examine what it might be.

Maryland has been hosting an annual conference on issues of suicide for many years.  From my observations, the conference hasn’t had workshops that focused on men and boys and their unique issues related to suicide with the exception of one recent workshop that focused on veterans.  This seems very perplexing since men and boys are the overwhelming majority of competed suicides. In fact, Maryland boys comprise 86% of the suicides between the ages 15-24 and yet there are no programs or resources that directly address their needs.

Why do men die more often from suicide?

Why could it be that boys and men comprise such a large percentage of completed  suicides?  Some, as we have heard,  assume that the reasons are related to men being more violent. Others speak of men’s reluctance to seek help. These are likely partial answers, but if we want to better understand this question, we will need to start thinking outside the box. One of the boxes we are in is our assumption that men and women heal in the same way.  There is a good deal of information becoming available that suggests the possibility that men and women have markedly different ways of healing and this difference may play a major role in the reasons that men predominate in completed suicides. Below are some very brief ideas about these differences.

Emotional Processing  —  Scientists are uncovering some fascinating differences between the strategies men and women typically use when under stress.  According to the research of Shelly Taylor, Ph.D., of UCLA6, when women are stressed, they are more likely to move towards interaction and being with other people.  This movement obviously puts women into a position of sharing their problems with others, which then increases the likelihood that one of these people will help a woman connect with therapeutic emergency services.  Men, on the other hand, have been shown to move less towards interaction and more toward action or to inaction. Both of these tendencies, action and inaction, move men away from others who might connect them with services and move them toward a more solitary solution.  This is a much more dangerous position if you are feeling hopeless and helpless and likely plays into men’s tendency to avoid treatment and to see suicide as an alternative.

Societal Roles —  No one is mandated to care for men. Men have been responsible for the safety and care of women and children for thousands of years.  However, there is no third sex that is held responsible to care for the safety of men!  Men are keenly aware of this and have developed a strong sense of independence and self-reliance.  Both independence and self reliance will hamper the likelihood of a man seeking “help” for suicidal urges.

Harsh consequences for dependent males  —  A dependent male is a male that is judged harshly.  Men are in a double bind.  If they say they are not in need of services then they are held in high esteem but forfeit the help they need. If men admit they are in need of services, they are seen as worth less.  Peter Marin, in an article titled “Abandoning Men: Jill Gets Welfare–Jack Becomes Homeless,” states:

To put it simply: men are neither supposed nor allowed to be dependent. They are expected to take care of others and themselves. And when they cannot or will not do it, then the assumption at the heart of the culture is that they are somehow less than men and therefore unworthy of help. An irony asserts itself: by being in need of help, men forfeit the right to it.7

A depressed and suicidal man is a dependent man. When we are hopeless and helpless we are far from being independent.  Hopelessness and helplessness are the cornerstones of what underlies suicidal ideology. A man who feels hopeless and helpless will likely avoid letting others know his dependency and will avoid exposing his need by asking for help.

Mental Health System —  Our mental health system is based on a face to face mode which favors the interactive nature of most women.  Men more frequently move to a “shoulder to shoulder” mode when feeling vulnerable which is profoundly different from the norms of most mental health services which rely on interaction and a face to face environment.8

Dominance Hierarchy  —  Fascinating research is showing it is likely that human males live within a dominance hierarchy.  Most of us are aware of the male big horn sheep that charge each other and ram heads until one of the males backs down. By butting heads they are forming the dominance hierarchy for their flock.  The male who comes out on top of this hierarchy will have access to the top ranked females in their group. Evidence is now pointing towards human males having a dominance hierarchy based on status with males competing for status and access to the highest ranked females.9 This helps explain men’s tendency to compete for higher status and their reluctance to disclose information that might negatively impact their status rank.  If this is correct, it helps explain a man’s reluctance to discuss his suicidality and his attempts to disguise his vulnerability, which would obviously lower his status.

Culture  —  Our culture is harsh on men who emote publicly.  Men know there is huge judgment placed on them for displaying emotion, and will avoid public emoting at all costs.  The fact is that men are placed into a double bind:  If they do emote publicly, they are labelled as wimps; if they don’t emote publicly they are labelled as cold and unfeeling.  It’s a lose/lose for men.  This impacts a man’s reluctance to discuss his suicidality and his tender and vulnerable feelings.8

Hormones —  We are beginning to understand that testosterone is a powerful force when it comes to processing emotions.  Women who take very large doses of testosterone are reporting that their access to emotional tears becomes markedly diminished and their ability to articulate their emotional state dwindles.10,11 It’s a small jump to assume that testosterone in males will have a similar impact.  Men have at least ten times more testosterone than women and would therefore be less likely to access emotional tears and less apt to articulate their emotions as they are feeling them. Both of these qualities have been the standard fare for therapy and may be one more reason that men avoid seeking treatment.  This would help explain why women are more likely to seek out therapy than men.

Valuing female lives over male lives —  As hard as it is to believe, we tend to value female lives more than male lives.  Why else would we allow men to commit suicide 4 times as often as women and take no action?  Why would we allow men to be 93% of the workplace deaths?  Why would we allow men to be over 97% of the deaths in wartime and not show any concern?  Just imagine that the US Government decided that only females would be allowed on the front lines in Iraq and Afghanistan and all of the sudden over 32 times as many women start dying than men?  People would be outraged that so many women were dying. Why are they not outraged now that so many men are dying?  Because we value female life more than that of the male.

 

 

Recommendations

1. Dedicate next year’s Maryland Suicide Conference to the topic of men, boys and suicide.  Call in experts from around the country on the topic, and work towards bringing together numerous clinicians and researchers who will be able to share information and ideas on the reasons for men dominating the suicide numbers and ways to start to solve the problem.

2. Designate one interested staff member to investigate the latest treatment ideas and programs for males and suicide around the world.  Finland is the first country to have focused on men and suicide and is ahead of most others in this respect.  They have been one of the most successful countries in bringing their numbers of suicides down and would likely be a wealth of information.  Australia would also be worth checking since they have recently instituted numerous programs specifically for boys, men and suicide.  Some are for Indigenous men, others for boys, others for men in general.  Lastly, Colorado’s Men and Suicide Campaign would be another place to check.  This innovative program is the only program to my knowledge in the U.S. that focuses on males and suicide.  Unfortunately, the program lost its funding only days before it was to open.  There remains a core group of passionate clinicians and administrators who are working to carry the program forward without funding, and I know they would be happy to talk to someone from Maryland about their work and ideas.

3. Provide for the staff member conducting the research outlined above to present this material at the Maryland Suicide Conference.  A podcast of the presentation could be available for download.

4. Create interest in the health department around the issue of males and suicide.  Send informal notices for voluntary gatherings to discuss this issue in hopes of attracting interested professionals.  Gauge the response and determine whether the next step may be to form a group of interested professionals who might facilitate the gathering of information and dissemination of information to interested parties.

5. Create PSA’s on this issue that confer a male friendly message that states clearly that men are good and that each man is valuable.  Develop podcasts that can be downloaded that offer information and ways to connect to supports.

6. Develop new avenues that men might be more likely to use in reporting possible suicide ideation and severe depression such as email, twitter and texting. Consider alternate arenas to connect with men including barber shops, sports teams, workout facilities and sports events.

7. Work in conjunction with the Maryland Suicide Prevention Commission.

 

 

references

 

1. (2006) National Vital Statistics Reports, Deaths: Final Data 2006, Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, Volume 57, Number 14, April 17, 2009 http://www.cdc.gov/nchs/data/nvsr/nvsr57/nvsr57_14.pdf

2. Ryan, Joan. “Sorting Out Puzzle of Male Suicide.” San Francisco Chronicle 26 Jan. 2006: b-1. Print. http://www.sfgate.com/cgi-bin/article.cgi?f=/c/a/2006/01/26/BAGHRGT0DV1.DTL&hw=suicide&sn=003&sc=490#ixzz0Y6EBcvdg

3. Personal correspondence 2009 with Elizabeth Clarke, Executive Director NASW.

4. (2001 )National Strategy for Suicide Prevention: Goals and Objectives for Action. Rockville, MD : U.S. Dept. of Health and Human Services,  Public Health Service, 2001. Includes index.
<http://download.ncadi.samhsa.gov/ken/pdf/SMA01-3517/SMA01-3517.pdf

5. “Suicide Statistics at Suicide.org” Suicide.org: Suicide Prevention, Suicide Awareness, Suicide Support – Suicide.org! Suicide.org! Suicide.org!. N.p., n.d. Web. 9 Dec. 2009. <http://www.suicide.org/suicide-statistics.html>

6.Taylor, Shelley E.. The Tending Instinct: Women, Men, and the Biology of Relationships. new york: Owl Books, 2003. Print.

7. “Abandoning Men: Jill Gets WelfareJack Becomes Homeless.” Alicia Patterson Foundation. N.p., n.d. Web. 9 Dec. 2009. <http://www.aliciapatterson.org/APF1403/Marin/Marin.html>.

8. Golden, Thomas R.. Swallowed by a Snake: The Gift of the Masculine Side of Healing. 2nd ed. Gaithersburg: Golden Healing Publishing Llc, 1996. Print.

9.  Moxon, Steve. The Woman Racket: The New Science Explaining How the Sexes Relate at Work, at Play and in Society. Charlottesvile: Imprint Academic, 2008. Print.

10.  Valerio, Max Wolf. The Testosterone Files: My Hormonal and Social Transformation from Female to Male. Emeryville: Seal Press, 2006. Print.

11. “Testosterone.” This American Life. National Public Radio, n.d. Web. 22 Feb. 2008. < http://www.thisamericanlife.org/Radio_Episode.aspx?episode=22