On Gender


Killing Men

The National Institute of Mental Health is part of the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services. They offer an FAQ page on suicide at www.nimh.nih.gov/research/suicidefaq.cfm One entry reads:

Why do men commit suicide more often than women do?

More than four times as many men as women die by suicide; but women attempt suicide more often during their lives than do men, and women report higher rates of depression. Several explanations have been offered: a) Completed suicide is associated with aggressive behavior that is more common in men, and which may in turn be related to some of the biological differences identified in suicidality. b) Men and women use different suicide methods. Women in all countries are more likely to ingest poisons than men. In countries where the poisons are highly lethal and/or where treatment resources scarce, rescue is rare and hence female suicides outnumber males. More research is needed on the social-cultural factors that may protect women from completing suicide, and how to encourage men to recognize and seek treatment for their distress, instead of resorting to suicide.

To: wittenbc@mail.nih.gov, ti4g@nih.gov

Subject: Gender bias in mental health care

Dear Clarissa Wittenberg and Thomas Insel,

I am disappointed in the gender bias shown by your answer to, "Why do men commit suicide more often than women do?" It does not explain it, but is likely a large part of the reason.

The first sentence contains a “but women,” reflecting the answer’s “so what” attitude toward men since it then spends the answer avoiding men’s suicide to talk about women’s. (By the way, men commit more suicides in all countries with the possible exception of China. The author might get their facts straight.)

The psychologists I’ve heard suggest that women attempt suicide as a cry for help. That is, they only attempt it, confident of getting the attention they seek. Men commit it exactly because they know they never will get attention, which your website confirms.

The answer dismisses the fourfold greater male suicide rate as male aggression, which blames men for theirs while being concern for women’s. No study has ever supported this bias. Men and women may express their aggression in different forms but there’s every reason to consider both genders equally aggressive. Love, hate, and aggression are not gender-specific. Indeed, the evidence suggests that women commit more aggression exactly because these gender biases allow them to get away with it. (See When She Was Bad, Odd Girl Out, etc.)

Men commonly have more outbound energy than women. Calling that aggression is the very bias to which I refer. I even wonder if your own science and research contributed to your website, or only superstition.

It always surprises me how the last thing psychologists look to for why people behave as they do is the way they are being treated. It isn’t mentioned, but a major source of the overall discrepancy is that divorced men commit TEN TIMES the suicides of divorced women. You don’t suppose the different rates reflect how men are treated by society verses how women are treated, and that this answer is a fine example? How can mental health professionals cure anything while an instrument of the very forces whose effects it seeks to cure?

Since women go to the doctor four times more often than men, some say the medical industry is geared for only treating them. Perhaps it’s good that NIMH ignores the needs of men. If you offered anything it would probably be inappropriate for us anyway. Given your sympathy and understanding of male suicide, you wouldn't be much help.

©2008, KC Wilson

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To nourish children and raise them against odds is in any time, any place, more valuable than to fix bolts in cars or design nuclear weapons. - Marilyn French


 K.C. Wilson is a social commentator and author of Where's Daddy? The Mythologies Behind Custody-Access-Support, and the e-books: Male Nurturing, Co-parenting for Everyone, The Multiple Scandals of Child Support, and Delusions of Violence: The Secrets Behind Domestic Violence Myths. For his personal life, he prefers anonymity. He writes as a nobody, for he is not your ordinary divorce expert with the usual credentials. He is not a lawyer or psychologist, he is not now nor has he ever been a member of the Divorce Industry. K.C. is simply a thinker and researcher, for the issues are not legal, but human, social and common to all. When change is indicated, should we turn to those that the very status quo which is to be questioned has promoted to "expert?" Society's structures are up to society, not a select few. So his writing is for and about you, the ordinary person. K.C. prefers to be known as simply one himself, and that is how he writes. Find out more at wheres-daddy.com


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