Women Less Likely Than Men to Commit Suicide

USA TODAY, April 2001 | Go to article overview

Women Less Likely Than Men to Commit Suicide


Many studies have identified a strong link between suicide and diagnosable mental illness, especially depression. So, because women suffer from depression at a much higher rate than men, they would seem to be at higher risk for suicide. Yet, women actually commit suicide about one-fourth as often as men.

George E. Murphy, emeritus professor of psychiatry at Washington University School of Medicine in St. Louis (Mo.), says that females may be protected because of the way they think about problems and interact with others. "Women process their experiences with friends. They discuss their feelings, seek feedback, and take advice. They are much more likely to tell a physician how they feel and cooperate in the prescribed treatment. As a result, women get better treatment for their depression."

That treatment may help protect them from suicide, but Murphy suggests there is more to it. The approach to problem-solving is what often lands a woman in a psychiatrist's office in the first place, and that approach may be keeping female suicide rates lower.

Actually, women lead men two-to-one in suicide attempts. Murphy indicates that at least 200,000 women are involved in suicide attempts annually. However, he points out that attempted suicide most often is not an attempt to actually end one's life. Its purpose, he maintains, is to survive with changed circumstances. "An attempted suicide is not really an attempt at suicide in about 95% of cases. It is a different phenomenon. It's most often an effort to bring someone's attention, dramatically, to a problem that the individual feels needs to be solved. Suicide contains a solution in itself."

In attempted suicide, both men and women tend to use methods that allow for second thoughts or rescue. …

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Women Less Likely Than Men to Commit Suicide
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