Is men’s suicidal behavior different from that of women’s? Much research has been devoted to this question since the late 1980s. Scientific literature refers to it as “The Gender Paradox.” and studies investigated associations between gender and various variables and risk factors possibly suggesting differences between men and women in areas related to suicide, including treatment approaches. Gender differences in suicide-related behaviors can be seen already at an early age. There are also differences in the various components included in the suicidal behavior sequence and the suicidal process. Research shows that suicide ideation and suicide attempts are more common among females than among males. In contrast, the rate of males dying by suicide is significantly higher than that of females.
Three separate, but interrelated, variables have been studied extensively to explain the differences in suicidal behavior between the two sexes. They are: lethality of the suicidal act, methods used by suicide attempters, and intent to die.
Explanations of the reasons for the differences between the sexes are many. Clinical and social characteristics, such as physical or psychiatric illness, or negative life events have been found to impact males and females differently. Other possible reasons are socio-cultural differences, structural differences, differences related to gender roles and the different expectations from each gender. Yet more explanations focus on socialization, how one feels about the quality of one’s interpersonal relationships, differences in expressing one’s feelings, and differences in needs and weaknesses. All lead to differences in help-seeking, both in quantity and in style. Men, for example, tend to reach out for help less than women.
This gender effect crosses countries, cultures, and religions. It is also present in people with mental health disorders and may lead to suicidal behaviors.
Despite the rich literature on this topic, many questions still remain. Further investigation is necessary to understand the possible differences in the impact of significant life-changes occurring in the world, whether permanent or temporary (such as the COVID-19 pandemic). This special issue intends to bring to the reader new, up-to-date research on the fascinating and important subject of the differences in suicidal behavior between males and females, as well as literature reviews summarizing the current knowledge on this topic.
Dr. Leah Shelef
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