Scientists find differences in suicide clues language identified between men and women

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Men face a disproportionately high risk of suicide, accounting for 80% of suicides despite making up only 50% of the population.

This stark reality highlights a significant gap in the detection and prevention of suicide risks among men, partly due to less frequent diagnoses and treatments for mental health issues compared to women.

A new study by UCLA researchers, however, offers a promising avenue for better identification and intervention strategies.

Published in the American Journal of Public Health, the study analyzed over 271,000 suicide cases recorded in the U.S. National Violent Death Reporting System over 17 years.

The researchers focused on the language used in police reports and public health records, discovering significant differences in how the circumstances of male and female suicides were described.

The findings revealed that language concerning mood, psychological state, and treatment for mental health issues was more commonly associated with women.

Terms like “intensive care unit,” “therapy,” and “welfare check” were frequently found in female-related records, pointing to a higher likelihood of receiving mental health interventions.

Conversely, the language associated with male suicides often referred to external stress factors such as job loss, financial stress, and alcohol abuse, along with descriptors like “strange behavior” and “agitation.”

Notably, even when mental health issues were mentioned in relation to men, the records often indicated a lack of treatment or non-compliance when treatment was provided.

The study also identified specific terms that were more frequently associated with male suicide cases, including:

  • Chronic mental health conditions
  • Undiagnosed
  • Strange behavior
  • Agitation
  • Making mistakes
  • Seeming like
  • Cognitive difficulties
  • Signals of mental and physical health issues
  • Self-injury
  • Cognitive indecision

These terms and the contexts in which they appear can be crucial for healthcare providers, first responders, and others involved in suicide prevention efforts. By recognizing these signals, professionals can better identify men at risk of suicide and intervene more effectively.

The researchers propose using this new understanding to inform public health messaging, enhance workplace wellness programs, and train personnel on suicide hotlines to spot and address the unique signs of suicide risk among men.

The use of artificial intelligence to mine texts for these specific signals is also suggested as a method to improve early detection.

Furthermore, the study highlights the broader issue of men’s health engagement. Women typically have more regular interactions with the health care system, often through reproductive health services, where they are routinely screened for depression.

Men, visiting doctors less frequently, miss these opportunities for early detection and referral for mental health care.

The UCLA study underscores the importance of tailored interventions that address the specific needs and circumstances of men.

Recognizing the signs of distress linked to events like job loss could lead to timely and potentially life-saving interventions.

By adopting gender-sensitive approaches and leveraging technology, there is hope for reducing the high rate of suicide among men and improving mental health outcomes.

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For more information about health, please see recent studies about drug for mental health that may harm the brain, and results showing this therapy more effective than ketamine in treating severe depression.

The research findings can be found in the American Journal of Public Health.

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