‘Second Sexism’ and Male Suicide
September 10 was World Suicide Prevention Day and October month is celebrated as the prevention of violence against men by MRAs. Men suffer from different types of violence that often go unnoticed and even men themselves are not sensitized about these. These may be direct physical violence or institutional violence through institutional bias. The prevailing misandry and bias in society often lead to the suicide of common men. David Benatar has already shown different forms of bias against men in his book ‘Second Sexism’. I have written about these forms of bias here so that everyone knows about them.
In a research, the Samaritans, a group that is working for more than 60 years for suicide prevention has shown the reasons leading men to commit suicide.
Key Factors Leading to Male Suicide
Following are some of the key factors that lead to male suicide as mentioned by them in their report –
- Masculinity – Defined as the power, control and invincibility that men want to enjoy. When they can’t achieve that position, they lose their purpose in life.
- Relationship Breakdown – Relationship breakdown is marked as another reason as the report found that men look for more emotional support from relationships than women. When emotional support breaks down, they commit suicide.
- Emotional Connectedness – The report says that men are less connected emotionally with others around them and after 30 years of age their social circles reduce. Men are also less likely to seek help when in distress and that often lead to death.
- Socio-Economic Position – The report says, men in the lower strata of society have a higher risk of committing suicide because they experience more powerlessness, stigma, poor mental health etc.
Psychological Factors Behind Male Suicide
One best factor that separates this Samaritans report on male suicide is that it analyzes the psychological and personality factors that are responsible for male suicide. The following psychological factors were enlisted in the Samaritans report –
- Social Perfectionism – The perception that one must always meet the expectations of others
- Self-criticism – Excessive negative self-appraisal
- Rumination – of persistent self-centred thoughts of unachieved standards
- Reduced social problem-solving ability
- Inability to generate positive thoughts for future
- Setting Realistic goals – Men not achieving higher goals fail to reset their goals to a new standard and hence frustration increases.
- Feeling defeated or trapped
- Thwarted belongingness – Social alienation
- Perceived burdensomeness – When one feels one has become a burden on others
- The threshold of physical and emotional pain
The Psychological Road Map of Male Suicide
Another excellent feature of this Samaritans report was presenting a psychological model or a psychological road-map of a male suicide victim leading to his suicide. The report divides the suicide process into three distinct phases:
- Pre-motivational Phase, where different biological or personality factors or life events triggers a suicidal thought in men
- Motivational Phase – Researchers termed this phase as ‘Arrested Flight’ model of suicidal behaviour where the male victim generates feelings of entrapment and due to reduced problem-solving ability, feels to have failed in life and ideate about committing suicide.
- Volitional Phase – Samaritans researchers explained the male behaviour in this phase by using ‘Theory of planned behaviour’. Researchers said unless these volitional factors are present one can’t commit suicide. Like a suicide plan or one’s ability to execute the suicide plan.
Psychological Routes to Male Suicide
The Samaritans report on male suicide also described the key psychological and personality antecedents of suicidal behaviour. They found that men in their middle ages and from low socio-economic background often commit more suicide and there is a lack of research in that area.
Their opinion, however, was that the risk-taking behaviour in men very often leads to taking very harsh decisions in life and when they decide to end their life, it is more often lethal ways than the lenient ones.
Masculinities Leading to Suicide
Samaritans found that the traditional gender role concept of masculinity often leads to male suicide. They described different forms of masculinities like Hegemonic (or most desired), Complicit (or those who get patriarchal benefits) and marginalized (or intersectional) masculinity. Their view was that men from lower socio-economic positions often have marginalized masculinity. These men, however, remain content if they can exercise patriarchal power – control over women and children.
Feminisation of Labour
With the job roles increasingly becoming service-oriented, and masculine job roles that required hard labour, getting reduced, very often men in lower economic strata are left with lesser number of jobs. They called it ‘Feminisation of labour’. Their view was that working-class men often find it difficult to adjust in this job market.
The Provider Role Leading to Male Suicide
Men take pride in being employed and in being able to provide for their family. When they fail to do that, they become suicidal. Often the mother’s role in parenthood is most accepted and lauded compared to the father’s role. Mothers are closely related to child-rearing and closely knit in social circles. So, social support lessens the threat of suicide among women.
Financial Difficulties Behind Male Suicide
The roles of masculinity and expectations of the provider role often lead an unemployed man who is in financial difficulty to a psychological breakdown. This along with relationship breakdown, social isolation, alcohol and drug abuse lead to suicide.
Other forms of masculine behaviour
Men are often engaged in risk-taking behaviour and they are involved in risky jobs. Coupled with this is the negligence of their own bodily comfort. They are also more into alcohol and drug abuse. All these often lead to men ignoring their problems only to make those bigger and unbearable. This often leads them to commit suicide.
Relationship Breakdown and Male Suicide
The Samaritans report found more men commit suicide due to relationship breakdown. They said men derive more benefit out of a marriage and married men are happier than single men. However, in the Indian context, the available suicide data tells the opposite story. We found through our research on male suicide that divorced and widowed men are much less likely to commit suicide than married men.
Among various reasons, Samaritans found to be linked to male suicide related to relationship breakdown are –
- Men derive more benefit out of marriage than women – (quite contrary to our experience and data-driven knowledge in India)
- The traditional construct of masculinity that derives pleasure by achieving control of women and children
- Changing expectations of increased intimacy
- Separation from Children, and
- Actual or attempted control of partners
- Greater loneliness in men
The Samaritans report is the most comprehensive report on suicide I found in recent times on male suicide behaviour. It discusses various factors related to male suicide and also gives us the possible solution to take care of men’s emotional health which is often neglected. Their observation that men seek more emotional support from marriage compared to women is the best hint in solving the male suicide crisis.
Men are not emotionally connected to the world around them and hence they seek most support from the woman in their home. Thus, an adulterous wife or wife’s illicit children often lead men to behave in most lethal ways. These men often take either their own life or murder their wife or her paramour. It is for this reason in India we find men in a matrimonial relationship committing more suicide compared to single/divorced or widowed men. Since divorce is often very costly for men in all aspects, the thought of getting a divorce and undergoing related pain often drive men crazy. Samaritans report in that sense has done a great job in showing the direction in which the future studies need to be conducted so that the male suicide problem can be tackled in the best way possible.