Psychological approaches to preventing suicide might be more effective in treating men if gender differences were taken into account, according to researchers in the UK.
A study of experienced therapists (including clinical psychologists, counselling psychologists, and psychotherapists) found that men and women tend to take a different approach to treatment with the key difference being that women want to talk about their problems
The findings echo a paper produced by Glen Poole of the Stop Male Suicide Project, in partnership with the Australian Men’s Health Forum, on the need for male-friendly approaches to suicide prevention.
John Barry from University College London, one of the authors of the UK study, which was presented to the annual conference of the British Psychological Society’s Division of Clinical Psychology in Liverpool last week, said:
“One of the interesting findings was that 80 per cent of the therapists showed a reluctance to talk directly about gender differences in the needs of their clients. This could be due to the culture in academia, where discussions of gender similarities are more acceptable than discussions of gender differences.
Despite therapists’ reluctance to talk about gender differences, Barry believes that “psychology might be more effective in treating men if gender differences were taken into account more.”
John Barry, who is a founding member of the Male Psychology Network, said:
“Despite the fact that men commit suicide at three to four times the rate that women do, men don’t seek psychological help as much. This might be because the types of treatment on offer are less appealing to men because many psychological interventions are more about talking than about fixing problems.”
“It is likely that men benefit as much as women from talking about their feelings, but if talking about feelings appears to be the goal of therapy, then some men may be put off. Our study found that men were more likely than women to say that there is a lack of male-friendly therapies available.”
A second study presented to the conference found that men, more than women, expressed a preference for therapy that involved sharing and receiving advice about their concerns in informal groups.
Glen Poole of the Stop Male Suicide project said:
“Currently, most approaches to preventing suicide rely on either identifying people who are thinking about or planning suicide and then intervening, or identifying people who have attempted suicide and providing follow-up care.
“While both of these approaches can help prevent male suicide, they are essentially female-friendly strategies that are more likely to help suicidal women than suicidal men. One of the paradoxes of male suicide is that while men are three times more likely to take their own lives, women are consistently reported to experience more suicidality than men, which includes thinking about and planning suicide.
“It is not surprising therefore, that female-friendly suicide prevention strategies that target people who are thinking about suicide and invite them to talk about their suicidality from the “inside out”, are more effective at helping women.
“Male-friendly approaches to suicide prevention generally recognise that men are less likely to report having suicidal thoughts and so identify men at risk from the “outside in”. One way this can be achieved is by targeting support services at men who are experiencing the situational distressors that are known to increase their risk of suicide, such as issues with relationships, work and money.”