Suicide has been on the rise across the U.S. for the past two decades, and the rates are highest among middle-aged white men.
Experts say men tend to be less likely to seek help or tell loved ones about suicidal thoughts. That’s why doctors at UC Davis are designing videos to encourage male patients to bring the issue up.
Dr. Anthony Jerant, chair of family and community medicine at UC Davis Health, says it has a lot to do with pride.
“It’s an extension of the fact that men never ask for directions,” he says. “They tend to try to figure things out, to a fault.”
So the videos Jerant is designing frame it a little differently. Rather than directing men to ask for help, the videos are about taking charge of your life, or protecting yourself and your family. They feature male actors talking about their struggles, and how they brought up suicide with their physician.
He developed the program after surveying 44 suicide survivors, prevention advocates, and family members of those who attempted or died by suicide. The evaluation showed that one of the main reasons men don’t talk about suicide with their physicians is that they’re afraid they’ll be forced to go to the hospital. The videos stress that this isn’t usually the case.
He says doctor’s appointments could be a key place to identify patients who are thinking about taking their own lives. Research shows nearly half of people who kill themselves had seen a primary care provider within a month of doing so.
The program will also include some training for physicians.
“Part of the problem is doctors aren’t asking about suicide when they should be,” Jerant says. “Like when they see a constellation of risk factors like substance abuse and a man in the right age group.”
Ultimately, he wants to show the videos in waiting rooms at clinics and outpatient offices throughout the UC Davis health system. First, he’s running a two-year clinical trial with about 50 participants to find out if the men who watch the videos are more likely to bring up suicide with their physicians than the men who don’t.
For more resources, call the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline at 1-800-273-8255 or visit suicidepreventionlifeline.org