Research Article: Signs of current suicidality in men: A systematic review

Date Published: March 29, 2017

Publisher: Public Library of Science

Author(s): Tara Hunt, Coralie J. Wilson, Peter Caputi, Alan Woodward, Ian Wilson, Martin Voracek.


Suicide signs have been identified by expert consensus and are relied on by service providers, community helpers’ and family members to identify suicidal men. Whether signs that are reported in suicide literature accurately describe male presentations of suicidality is unclear. A systematic review of the literature was conducted to identify male-specific signs of current suicidality and identify gaps in the literature for future research. Searches through Medline, CINAHL, PsychInfo and the Behavioral Sciences Collection, guided by the PRISMA-P statement, identified 12 studies that met the study eligibility criteria. Although the results generally reflected suicide signs identified by expert consensus, there is little research that has examined male-specific signs of the current suicidal state. This review highlights the need for scientific research to clarify male presentation of suicidality. Implications for future research to improve the prompt identification of suicidal men are discussed.

Partial Text

Suicide is a leading cause of death worldwide, with 8 females and 15 males per 100 000 taking their own life by suicide in 2012 [1]. In higher socio-economic countries, such as Australia, there is a pronounced gender disparity with men three times more likely to take their own lives than women [1,2]. Factors contributing to this gender disparity include: men having increased access to more lethal means than women [3]; traditional male gender roles [4]; and male socialisation, including the reluctance to seek help [5]. Given the significant hazards associated with not detecting those experiencing current suicidality, the assumptions underlying current suicide intervention strategies warrant examination.

A systematic review of the literature was conducted to identify signs of suicidal ideation, attempt, and death by suicide in men. The findings of this review broadly reflect signs of suicide that have been identified through expert consensus[8]. However, the review also found that there is a paucity of research identifying male-specific signs of suicidal ideation, attempt and death. As suicide signs are frequently used as an educational tool to increase the suicide literacy of front-line community workers, telephone crisis operators, and the general public, future research needs to determine whether signs that are currently reported in the suicide literature are sufficient to identify suicidal men.

This review was conducted to identify signs of current suicidality in men and provide directions for future research. Without accurate information regarding signs of suicide in men, the lay public and clinicians may not be well-equipped to identify suicidal men in need for suicide intervention. Although the findings indicated general support for the signs identified by clinical consensus[8], this review found little research identifying signs of men experiencing current suicidality. As knowledge of suicide signs is an important feature of suicide literacy for both clinicians and the lay public[9], the paucity of this research is problematic. Several implications for future research were highlighted including the including the need for prospective research to identify signs of men experiencing suicidality. In order to improve the identification and response to those experiencing thoughts of suicide a nuanced approach, exploring the influence of gender, culture and other individuating factors on the expression of suicidality, must be taken.




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