Men may avoid talking with doctors about suicidal thoughts because they fear psychiatric hospitalization, researchers say.
In the United States, men are more than three times as likely to die by suicide 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.
“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 program designed to encourage men to open up to their primary care providers about suicidal thoughts. They hope to get the program — called Men and Providers Preventing Suicide (MAPS) — into doctors’ office waiting areas.
For the new study, the investigators had the program 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 hospitalization.
But that’s not necessarily true.
“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 hospitalization 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 program that outlines treatment options and clarifies that hospitalization is often not necessary.
The MAPS study appears in the journal Patient Education and Counseling.
The U.S. National Institute of Mental Health has more on suicide prevention.