Background: Men die by suicide three to four times more often than women in Western countries. The adverse impact of the traditional male gender role as well as men's reluctance to seek help are possible explanations of this gender gap, but these hypotheses have not been well documented empirically.
Methods: This study compares two groups of men who experienced comparable severely stressful life events during the preceding 12 months: 40 men admitted to hospital emergency following suicide attempts, and 40 men with no history of suicide attempts. Structured interviews were conducted to measure adherence to the traditional male gender role, help seeking behaviour, social support, suicide acceptability and mental health.
Results: ANOVAS indicated that attempters are more likely to adhere to the traditional masculine gender role and regression analysis revealed that this relationship persists even when the presence of mental disorders is statistically controlled. Sequential regression analysis support the mediation model and show that the effects of the traditional male gender role on suicidal behavior are mediated through protective and risk factors for suicide, namely mental state, help seeking and social support.
Conclusions: The traditional male gender role appears to increase the risk of suicidal behavior in men by undermining their mental state and by inhibiting the protective factors of help seeking and social support. This study underscores the importance of encouraging men to seek help.