"You feel like you can't live anymore": suicide from the perspectives of Canadian men who experience depression

Soc Sci Med. 2012 Feb;74(4):506-14. doi: 10.1016/j.socscimed.2010.03.057. Epub 2010 May 24.


Severe depression is a known risk factor for suicide, yet worldwide men's suicide rates continue to outnumber reported rates of men's depression. While acknowledging that the pathways to suicide are diverse, and being mindful of the complex challenges inherent to studying suicide, we interviewed men who experienced depression as a means to better understanding the processes they used to counter and contemplate suicide. This novel qualitative study provides insights on how masculine roles, identities and relations mediate depression-related suicidal ideation in a cohort of 38 men in Canada, ranging in age from 24 to 50 years-old. Constant comparative analyses yielded the core category of reconciling despair in which men responded to severe depression and suicidal ideation by following two pathways. To counter suicide actions, connecting with family, peers and health care professionals and/or drawing on religious and moral beliefs were important interim steps for quelling thoughts about suicide and eventually dislocating depression from self-harm. This pathway revealed how connecting with family through masculine protector and father roles enabled men to avoid suicide while positioning help-seeking as a wise, rational action in re-establishing self-control. The other pathway, contemplating escape, rendered men socially isolated and the overuse of alcohol and other drugs were often employed to relieve emotional, mental and physical pain. Rather than providing respite, these risky practices were the gateway to men's heightened vulnerability for nonfatal suicidal behaviour. Men on this pathway embodied solitary and/or risk taker identities synonymous with masculine ideals but juxtaposed nonfatal suicidal behaviours as feminine terrain.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Adult
  • British Columbia
  • Depression / psychology*
  • Family
  • Health Personnel
  • Humans
  • Male
  • Masculinity
  • Middle Aged
  • Morals
  • Peer Group
  • Religion
  • Social Isolation
  • Social Support
  • Substance-Related Disorders / psychology
  • Suicidal Ideation*