Male rates of suicide are significantly higher than female rates in Ireland and other Western countries, yet the process and detail of men's suicidal action is relatively unknown. This is partly due to prevailing theoretical and methodological approaches. In this area of study, macro-level, quantitative approaches predominate; and theoretical frameworks tend to adopt unitary notions of men, as well as binary, oppositional, concepts of masculinity and femininity. This inquiry, based on in-depth interviews with 52 young Irish men who made a suicide attempt, examines suicidal behaviour at the individual level. The findings demonstrate that these men experienced high levels of emotional pain but had problems identifying symptoms and disclosing distress and this, along with the coping mechanisms used, was linked to a form of masculinity prevalent in their social environment. Dominant or hegemonic masculinity norms discouraged disclosure of emotional vulnerability, and participants used alcohol and drugs to cope - which exacerbated and prolonged their distress. Over time this led to a situation where they felt their options had narrowed, and suicidal action represented a way out of their difficulties. These men experienced significant, long-lasting, emotional pain but, in the context of lives lived in environments where prevailing constructions of masculinity constrained its expression, they opted for suicide rather than disclose distress and seek help. Underpinning this study is a presumption that binary notions of male and female emotions lack substance, but that the expression of emotions is gender-specific and constrained in some social localities.
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