In Singapore, more men resort to suicide as compared to women.

Suicide is the deliberate act of ending one’s life, and men in Singapore seem to resort to this extreme measure more often than women.

According to the Samaritans of Singapore (SOS), a non-profit organisation dedicated to suicide prevention, suicide takes away one life here every day. The latest statistics from SOS reveal that 227 men committed suicide in 2010 compared to 126 women the same year. And in the last decade, consistently more men than women killed themselves in Singapore.

“The act of suicide can be attributed to many factors, such as relationship woes, financial troubles, extreme loneliness, work stress, life situations like divorce and death, or psychiatric conditions like depression,” says Ms Evelyn Boon, Senior Principal Psychologist, Department of Psychiatry, Singapore General Hospital (SGH), a member of the SingHealth​ group.

Why do men choose suicide?

Overall, men appear to be more at risk of committing suicide than women.

One reason for this is the way men and women cope with stress. “Women tend to relieve stress by crying or confiding in support networks of family and friends,” explains Ms Boon. “But men, brought up to be strong and to not shed any tears, may not feel so comfortable talking about their emotions as they perceive them to be a sign of weakness.”

Also, men prefer to seek solutions – instead of support – when they are stuck in a difficult situation. “But when there is no solution in sight, they feel frustrated and powerless,” says Ms Boon.

Then there is the issue of “losing face”. Ms Boon says: “For instance, if a man is undergoing a divorce, losing his spouse and children (i.e. essentially his family, his purpose and even his role) can be a huge blow to his ego.

With fewer coping mechanisms and weak support networks, men are actually more vulnerable and easily overwhelmed by feelings of desperation and hopelessness.

And this may push them over the brink.

Men choose different means of committing suicide

When a man or a woman feels like they are at the end of their rope, suicide tends to cross their minds. Men are more at risk of completing a suicide.

“That’s because once men have made up their minds, they tend to choose more lethal (jumping or stabbing, etc.) means of killing themselves,” says Ms Boon. Most women however, tend to choose less lethal methods.

Preventing suicide

It is important to understand that the intention to commit suicide is usually based on a temporary state of mind. As time goes by, when a difficult situation improves, or with professional help, these negative thoughts will fade.

A person with suicidal tendencies can seek help in the following ways:

  • Ditch gender stereotypes and reach out for support:

  • “Boys don’t cry” is a familiar phrase to most of us. “But men should learn to realise that it is okay for them to cry, reach out to loved ones and share their problems,” says Ms Boon.

  • Find an outlet to relieve stress:

  • Men seem to prefer relieving stress via physical methods. “For many men, golfing is a diversion where they can work out their stressful energy in a productive way,” suggests Ms Boon. Physical exercises help them to work off the stress.

  • Seek professional help:

  • While family and friends can be a source of support, they may not always understand how someone with suicidal tendencies thinks or feels. “It will be more effective for the person to consult a mental health professional who will be able to explain that suicidal feelings are normal and often temporary. The professional can help the person work through his suicidal feelings.”

The SGH Department of Psychiatry provides a comprehensive, integrated, multi-disciplinary service in the assessment and management of patients with psychological and psychiatric disorders, including sleep disorders. Consultation is strictly by appointment only. Referrals are accepted from polyclinics, hospitals, general practitioners, voluntary welfare organisations, schools and colleges and institutions of higher learning. Patients in need of assistance can make a self-referral by calling our Central Appointment at 6321 4377.

Ref: T12