Gender and Suicide: Male Youth at Risk
By Ellen Kelty, MA, NCSP
Nationally Accredited School Suicide Prevention Specialist
We know male youth die by suicide five times more frequently than female youth (www.cdc.gov), however the Second Wind Fund of Metro Denver receives fewer referrals for males. This is similar to the fact that some school districts report fewer suicide risk assessments completed on males.
Part of this can be explained by the fact that females attempt more often than males yet males use more lethal means than females. (American Association of Suicidology Resource Guide 2009).
Male teens frequently downplay their symptoms or try to hide them. They are less comfortable asking for help and may see that as a sign of weakness. They may try unhealthy coping strategies such as drinking or engaging in high risk behavior to try to deal with their symptoms.
It also appears that mental health providers and family members may not recognize when a male youth is at risk. Depression in males often looks different than in females. Depressed teen males may display typical symptoms of depression, including sadness, problems eating and sleeping, and loss of interest in activities. But they may also have different symptoms than those exhibited by teen girls such as: aggression and violence, rage, isolation, sexual behavior, and substance abuse.
It is important that everyone that works with youth understand this dynamic. Programs like the Signs of Suicide (SOS) and the FIRE Within are being used in many districts to teach youth what to do if a friend is suicidal. They also teach youth how to recognize depression in a male friend and take the stigma out of asking for help. Help us address this issue by talking to the young males in your life about this problem and what the Second Wind Fund is doing to help youth.