From Dr Amer Siddiq Amer Nordin, Dr Hazreen Abdul Majid & Dr Wong Min Fui
According to the 2016 World Health Organization (WHO) global observatory data, 800,000 suicide cases were reported annually for both genders. In some countries, suicide rates are highest among the young, and is the second leading cause of death among the 15 to 29 age group globally.
As attempted suicide is illegal in certain countries, these figures can be under-reported.
Generally, women have a higher proportion for mental illness compared to men. However, the National Suicide Registry Malaysia has revealed that men have three times higher risk of dying by suicide compared to women.
Risk factors include the presence of mental illness, physical disability, a history of substance abuse, past suicide attempts and an ongoing stressful life event such as serious financial issues and unemployment.
The current Covid-19 has led to an economic slump that heightened the unemployment rate and job insecurity among workers. Based on the workforce statistics from the Statistics Department, the majority of those that make the workforce population are men (approximately 80%).
A sudden loss of income causes financial stress among men who are often the main breadwinner of the family. On the other hand, men who remain in the job will experience tremendous job strain as they are working with tight resources. Both job strain and job insecurity are known determinants of mental health issues.
An important risk factor for suicide is the presence of a mental disorder. It is equally important for us to recognise symptoms of an impending mental health crisis in any individual as this will lead to a life saved.
Presenting features, however, can differ between men and women.
Men often present themselves late for assessment and subsequent treatment. Symptoms can also be masked by other comorbidities such as alcohol or drug use. The personality of men or the perceived expectation to be “macho” can work against seeking and receiving help.
Men tend to persevere until late, thus complicating early detection, treatment and also prognosis. Moreover, methods to cope might also work against them, for example using substances.
Methods which might help in mitigating this situation include destigmatising help-seeking behaviour among men. Men should be made to understand and accept that they, too, can struggle with emotional distress.
In Malaysia, treatment is readily available in both public and private service.
Men who need help can be assessed by their general practitioner or they may seek help from a mental health provider of their choice be it a counsellor, clinical psychologist or psychiatrist. Treatment will be tailored towards the problem and might include talking therapy, medication or a combination of both.
Nationwide campaigns targeting this, which often left out the group, are timely and important. Let’s all help in making it easier for our men folk to come forward and seek the help they need and ultimately deserve.
Dr Amer Siddiq Amer Nordin is the director of UMCares (The Community and Sustainability Centre), Universiti Malaya. Dr Hazreen Abdul Majid is head of the Centre for Population Health and Department of Social and Preventive Medicine, Faculty of Medicine, Universiti Malaya. Dr Wong Min Fui is with the same centre and department.
The views expressed are those of the writers and do not necessarily reflect those of FMT.