Letter to the editor (May 2014)

Most suicide victims are male, an often-ignored fact

I just read the article on suicide in the April 2014 NASW News. I am both saddened and shocked that there was no mention of the fact that males comprise 80 percent of those who complete suicide — 80 percent.

Imagine for a minute that some other malady had 80 percent of the victims be female or black or just about any other demographic.

Under those circumstances the article would have likely featured entire sections on this or that group that face the bulk of the problem. The least they would have done would be to call attention to the group most impacted. Why not so with men?

Sadly this is not a new problem. NASW has been ignoring men as victims of suicide for many years, having sponsored research on the suicide of women even though women are a fraction of those who actually complete suicide.

The obvious importance of the 80 percent stat is that men comprise a group that is unlikely to seek help in traditional settings.

If people are serious about wanting to help with suicide, they had better start figuring out what might help men and how to attract men to treatment. At this point, we are failing miserably — and that is important for social workers to know.

NASW was at the forefront of creating a White House Council on Women and Girls, but when NASW was approached about supporting a proposed White House Council on Boys and Men, they at first said they would look into it but failed in responding, even after being prompted.

Many wonder why there are not more men in social work. It seems clear enough to me. I wrote a report on men and suicide when I served as the vice chairman of the Maryland Commission for Men’s Health. The official version can be read here.

Tom Golden, LCSW
Adamstown, Md.