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Why women fail to suicide

  1. Jun 1, 2009 #1

    Here's one lucky woman:

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  2. jcsd
  3. Jun 2, 2009 #2
    If she tried that around here she'd have starved to death.
  4. Jun 2, 2009 #3
    why is that?
  5. Jun 2, 2009 #4


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    The (in)frequency of trains?
  6. Jun 2, 2009 #5
    Yeah, I took it from an old joke.
  7. Jun 2, 2009 #6
    The words "woman", "fail" and "suicide" produce a specific rohrschach response in me, which is that they called to mind the incident where Hitler, at some point in the early days before he was in power, went crazy at a personal get together of close associates, pulled out a pistol, and started ranting about killing himself.

    The wife of Ernst Hanfstaegle was there, and she happened to have been studying ju jitsu. She overpowered Hitler and wrestled the gun away from him. And, of course, everyone pretty much now wishes she had failed.
  8. Jun 2, 2009 #7
    Didn't know that. that's some pathological incident.
    Last edited: Jun 2, 2009
  9. Jun 2, 2009 #8


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    Not sure if the OP is really looking for a discussion of the title, but the reason for this is relatively simple: women are more likely to be strongly emotional than men and act out emotionally. A failed attempt at suicide is an almost completely emotionally driven act that works out to be more of a cry for attention than an actual suicide attempt. When one does it and succeeds, there is often planning and rational thought involved to help ensure success.
  10. Jun 2, 2009 #9


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    That doesn't really fit the evidence, Russ. Men committing suicide are considered to be acting upon emotion as well. Men commit suicide at a higher rate than women...about 4:1. Attempted suicides are higher for women by a ratio of 3:1. http://www.healthieryou.com/suicstats.html (The data at that site are similar to what I've seen reported in scientific talks on the topic, even if it's not a peer-reviewed source, though, without any national reporting of attempted suicide, reliance on self-reports might still be prone to a gender bias in who is willing to admit they've tried if they weren't successful and have gotten past it...but I won't hazard a guess as to which direction that might skew the results...more toward men, or further toward women...I could justify an argument in either direction right now.)

    I think the article is wrong to rule out a gender bias in access to things like firearms. Yes, women who choose a firearm are more likely to be successful than women who don't, but just because some women choose firearms doesn't negate that the others who don't choose that method really had that option to consider. They may have been just as suicidal, but chose a less lethal method, or a slower method that allowed someone to find them before they died, such as overdosing on pills or slashing their wrists.

    These are stats just from CA, but I suspect the trend would be similar across the US:
    http://www.applications.dhs.ca.gov/epicdata/firearms/gunownstore.htm [Broken]

    The notable part there is that not only do more single men than single women own firearms, which could account for differences in successful suicides among single people, but even with married couples, the women don't always seem to even know there is a firearm in the home owned by her husband. So, while one could argue that among married people there would be equal access to the firearms, it seems that's not the case. And, I'd even suspect that of those who know the firearm is present, if they are not the primary user of it, they may still not have access to it if it's stored in a gun safe and they haven't bothered to learn the combination, or never learned to load it.

    Though, another gender bias I might consider accounting for women being less successful with suicide is that their social interactions may differ in a way that either they give more warning signs than men, or that those listening are more likely to recognize the warning signs, so they can intervene sooner.

    There are also age differences in when men vs women are more likely to commit suicide. Now I have to recall from a talk I heard...I think once they were past the "high risk" adolescent years, the next big peak for women committing suicide was in the peri-menopausal years. So, yes, at that age, it is the mood shifts associated with the hormonal changes that are usually attributed to this increase. In men, the next peak, but a bigger one, was a few decades later, when one might suspect they were reaching end-of-life issues for other reasons too. IIRC, those peaks were times when suicide outpaced suicidal behavior (meaning attempts)...but I'll leave room for my recollection to be wrong there.
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  11. Jun 3, 2009 #10


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    I think sociological factors play the biggest role. I don't think men are emotionaly inert, nor women emotionally unstable, I think men and women lead very different lives in societies which have somewhat defined gender roles. Of course this is changing, but no one would suggest that, say, men and women now occupy the same professions on average.

    I think the suicide statistics are a manefestation of these sociological factors, e.g. farming has a higher than average suicide rate; are more farmers men? The various reasons (although this is often inexplicable) for suicide might be different on avergae between genders. E.g. Men might be more likely to kill themselves after loosing their job (e.g. japanese recession), in which case they might feel a clear finantial impetus to opt out of life at that time, and on impulse choose particulaly violent means.

    There is evidence (I have no references but "night falls fast" by Kay Adams is where I read it) which suggests that successful suicide is commonly done on impulse. Might this be signifier of a physiological gender based difference?

    I read the following, which challenges a lot of the preconceptions of suicide


    Last edited: Jun 3, 2009
  12. Jun 3, 2009 #11


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    Are you sure about that? Remember, there are a lot of kinds of emotions. Picture these scenarios.

    Two drivers get into a scrap on the side of the road...a road rage incident. What gender drivers do you picture? I picture males.

    A person gets upset than someone is admiring their spouse and gets into a fight with the admirer. I picture a male doing that more often than a female.

    A person is distraught at losing a job, becomes unstable and holes up in a house with a weapon. A SWAT team has to intervene to get the person out safely. I picture a male doing that more often than a female.

    Now, my generaliztion of the genders doing these things is based on what's reported in the media, and I know that the media aren't a great source of data. But I do think that males are more likely to do these kinds of things, which are all examples of acting out emotionally.

    My point is when you say women are more likely to act out emotionally than men are, just remember there are more emotions than sadness.
  13. Jun 3, 2009 #12
    My girlfriend is reading this book


    which explains that yes, women are in fact more emotional than men, they have scientifically proven chemical differences that explain the majority of the differences between the male and female genders...for example, why women take longer to make decisions, why they are more social, why they cry more, why they are more perceptive of others' emotions, etc
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  14. Jun 3, 2009 #13


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    The notion that women are emotional creatures and men stoic thinkers is just wrong and outdated. It's reinforced by the observation that in the everyday, women might be observed expressing their emotions more often, but as Lisab says this doesn't cover the spectrum of emotional response.

    Even so, I don't think women are overtly more emotional than men, I think gender stereotypes make us just believe it is so. It's not like you see women in tears or arguing all the time is it? As with anything, I think it's down to communication. Men and women communicate very differently, and express emotions very differently, but who can say one gender is "more emotional".

    I also think communication is a very iomportant factor in suicide. Men are less likely to seek help, and if the do seek help they are likely to have difficulty expressing their problems:

    junglebeast, the first review on the link you posted is a 2 star review by a clinical psychologist who says the science behind the book is weak.
    Last edited: Jun 3, 2009
  15. Jun 3, 2009 #14


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    Sure, I said that - I just said that there's enough rationality in there to choose a method more likely to succeed.
    Since one is a component of the other, that means that men are 12x more likely to succeed than women! Yikes.
    The way you said that sounds like women are failing on purpose and men are succeeding on purpose, based on the chosen method. That's not exactly the way I put it, but it is similar. The difference is that in your explanation, both might have the same amount of rationality in the decision to make a serious/not serious attempt. In my explanation, women aren't failing on purpose, but by accident due to not being rational enough to pick a method with better odds of success.

    I concede, though, that I don't have much basis beyond personal logic to suggest that women would be failing on purpose vs due to extra irrationality getting in the way.
  16. Jun 3, 2009 #15


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    The first two of those are conflicts between people and I'd certainly agree that men are more physically aggressive in response to conflicts. But those don't have anything to do with suicide.

    The third is a pretty common (today especially) murder/suicide scenario involving men and thus supports my thesis, not refutes it.
    Don't take what I said to be a general dish against women. I'm not misogynistic. Men certainly react with more emotion in certain types of situations, but sadness/despair is the only emotion relevant to this thread.

    I've been told by women that every woman, regardless of age, still has a scared/embarassed (and therefore sad/desperate) teenaged girl inside her.
  17. Jun 4, 2009 #16


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    I think you're over generalising massively.
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