Why men won't mention suicidal thoughts to their doctor

Men may avoid talking to doctors about suicidal thoughts because they fear psychiatric hospitalisation, researchers say.

In the United States, men are more than three times as likely to kill themselves as women. Moreover, nearly half of all adults who take their own lives have seen a primary care provider within the month before their deaths, according to the researchers.

Evaluation by suicide survivors

"Those statistics led us to ask, 'Is there something primary care providers might be able to do or say in office visits with men to change that outcome?'" said study leader Dr Anthony Jerant. He chairs family and community medicine at University of California, Davis Health.

Jerant and his colleagues developed a multimedia programme designed to encourage men to open up to their primary care providers about suicidal thoughts. They hope to get the programme — called Men and Providers Preventing Suicide (MAPS) — into doctors' office waiting areas.

For the new study, the investigators had the programme evaluated by dozens of suicide survivors, prevention advocates, and family members of those who attempted or died by suicide.

Some participants wanted assurance that primary care providers are prepared to respond to patients who talk about suicide. There was also a strong fear that disclosing such thoughts to a doctor always results in immediate hospitalisation.

But that's not necessarily true.

Hospitalisation often not necessary

"Our overall goal is to initiate comfortable conversations with men about mental health and its treatment in outpatient primary care settings," Jerant said in a UC Davis news release. "Fear of hospitalisation wasn't really on our radar," he said, noting that interviews like those in the study can help shape the development of suicide-prevention interventions.

As a result of the interviews, the researchers added a video clip to their programme that outlines treatment options and clarifies that hospitalisation is often not necessary.

The MAPS study appears in the journal Patient Education and Counseling.

Image credit: iStock

Read more on: suicide men's health

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