Men now at higher risk for suicide | Inquirer Business
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Men now at higher risk for suicide

First of two parts)

Two weeks ago, just when I was about to go to the airport for a meeting abroad, a 48-year-old patient, whose heart problem I’ve been attending to for more than 10 years now, called me up on my mobile phone.

The frantic voice was unmistakable; I could sense serious trouble even before he could finish his first sentence.


“This may be the last time I’d be talking to you. I just want to thank you for everything,” he said. I could hear him sobbing on the phone.


I looked at my watch. I barely had time to catch my flight. But how could I hang up on a person who felt the whole world had caved in on him?

I told him we could continue talking while my driver took me to the airport. He relayed to me the cause of his lingering depression—which he already told me before—and he felt the best solution was for him to die, and he meant killing himself.

I fumbled with my words but tried my best to tell him to look at everything that’s happening in his life from a different perspective. “God made you survive a couple of heart attacks so I’m sure He still has big plans for you,” I said. “Just look at all these problems you’re having as an initiation to prepare you for whatever good things He has in store for you,” I added.

Soothing balm

There was a pregnant pause. I was worried, but I couldn’t think of any more good words to say to provide a soothing balm to his markedly frayed nerves. Finally I managed to say, “Look here, you told me once there’s nothing you won’t do for me.”

“Yes, I did tell you that before,” he mumbled.


“Do me this favor then. I’ll be away for 10 days. Don’t do anything foolish while I’m away. I’ll make arrangements for you to be admitted to the hospital and be treated by a specialist in your kind of problem.” I avoided mentioning the word psychiatrist as my suggestion to refer him to one several months ago freaked him out.

“I’ll see,” he said and hang up. I tried to call him, but he would not answer.

I was the one frantic this time. What did he mean by “I’ll see”? I scanned my phone directory and fortunately, my patient’s son’s number was in it. While standing in line for my check-in for the flight, I called him up and told him about his father’s suicidal plans. He knew about his father’s lingering depression, but he didn’t think it was that serious. I instructed him to take his father to the emergency room of our hospital. Someone who has suicidal tendencies should be treated seriously and be considered an emergency case.

I called up our doctor on duty and gave instructions to refer him immediately to our psychiatrist. I whispered a short prayer that everything would turn out well for my patient.

Upon reaching my destination abroad, while still at the airport, I called by Viber our resident physician, and he told me the patient had been admitted already and is on 24-hour watch. After five days, I called again and he was already discharged by his psychiatrist but was told to closely follow him up as an outpatient.

I hope he’d be able to weather this storm in his life.

Suicide statistics

Time was when suicide was a rarity in men, or at least much less common compared to women. Recent statistics show that men are now three times more likely to commit suicide than women, and this ratio is the highest in the last 30 years. Suicide attempts of men usually have more chances of being completed or succeeding compared to their female counterparts.

Another twist in recent statistics on suicide is that of men committing suicide, young men are no longer the most at-risk group. Older men aged 40-44 are now most at risk in several reports. Most likely, the recession in many countries is a major factor. Men aged 20-34 years are the next group at risk.

Prof. Rory O’Connor, a Glasgow University psychologist and leading authority on suicide, discussed in an article about a “generational effect” to explain the previous high suicide rate in young men, which has now shifted to men of middle age.

Reaching out

Clare Wyllie is head of policy and research at Samaritans, a group which has launched “We’re in Your Corner” that reaches out to depressed middle-aged men. “Men in the lowest socioeconomic group living in the most deprived areas are approximately 10 times more likely to die by suicide than men from higher socioeconomic backgrounds, living in the most affluent areas,” she said in a journal report.

Their research has shown that disadvantaged men in mid-life have seen their jobs, relationships and identity radically altered. “There is a large gap between the reality of life and the masculine ideal, for this group of men. They are likely to experience multiple risk factors for suicide which taken together can have devastating consequences,” Wyllie explained.

She added that men usually keep their problems to themselves and find it more difficult to talk about their feelings. Hence, they entertain suicidal thoughts more and engage in other risky behavior when they’re depressed.

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The research authors also said the Internet could aggravate the suicidal thoughts of depressed men and women, even boys and girls. Some people go online when feeling depressed and get access to online self-harm and suicide blogs. There are even suicide-related websites, so parents must make sure their children do not get to browse these websites.

If you or someone you know is in need of assistance, please reach out to the National Center for Mental Health (NCMH). Their crisis hotlines are available at 1553 (Luzon-wide landline toll-free), 0917-899-USAP (8727), 0966-351-4518, and 0908-639-2672. For more information, visit their website: (

Alternatively, you can contact Hopeline PH at the following numbers: 0917-5584673, 0918-8734673, 88044673. Additional resources are available at, or connect with them on Facebook at Hopeline PH.

TAGS: column, health and wellness, Rafael Castillo, suicide

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