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Mental Health and Suicide Prevention in Men – Evidence Brief

Of the estimated 4,000 suicide deaths in Canada each year, 75 per cent are men. Suicide is the country’s second leading cause of death for men aged 15-39 (after accidental death). Research into sex differences in suicidal behaviour has revealed a gender paradox, wherein men are more likely to die by suicide, and women are more like to attempt it. Between 1981 and 2017, men consistently had higher mortality rates due to suicide compared to women. During this time, the average “male-to-female ratio” of suicide deaths was 3.4:1, meaning that men died by suicide on average 3.4 times as often as women. These disproportionately high rates have not only been observed across time, but also across the lifespan, where men’s rates of suicide are consistently higher than women at all ages.

Rarely is there one “reason” to explain why someone has died by suicide. On the contrary, suicidal behaviour is influenced by a combination of factors — including biological, clinical, environmental, psychological, and socio-cultural — spanning the life course. The factors contributing to and protecting against suicide risk are also fluid and vary across individuals and subgroups, ages, life stages, and circumstances. That said, men share several notable factors that increase their risk for suicide. Thus, understanding why men die by suicide at such high rates, and who among them is most at risk, is crucial to developing and implementing effective suicide prevention strategies for this population.

In addition to summarizing the evidence on factors that lead to increased risk of suicide and suicide deaths among men, subgroups that are at higher risk, and the potential and observed impact of COVID-19 on men as it relates to mental health and suicide, this brief will highlight best and promising suicide prevention practices.

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