Toxic Masculinity and it's Effect on Male Suicide Rates

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What is toxic masculinity?

Toxic masculinity is a subset of masculinity that encompasses the negative attributes that can accompany masculinity, though it does not encompass it as a whole. [1] The name itself causes controversial opinions on the topic as many assume that the term was created by aggravated feminists and that it is an attack directed towards masculinity. It was instead coined by men during the Mythopoetic Men's Movement in the 1980s and 1990s, with the purpose of identifying problems with masculine behavior and finding a healthier version of masculinity. At this time, members of the movement would organize retreats and therapeutic workshops for men seeking opportunities for personal growth.[2]

These harmful masculine traits develop from adolescence through reinforced ideals of boys and men and inferiority of feminine traits. This can negatively impact the narrative for all genders. Men are told that they must dominate over women, be tough, and strong, and not show emotion the way that women are allowed to. They are taught that any feminine traits are inferior and should be especially avoided by boys and men. [3] One major trait that the Mythopoetic Men's Movement aimed to work against was the inability that numerous men feel to express emotions[2]

Toxic masculinity’s contribution to depression

While depression is experienced by all genders, emotions have been socialized as a feminine trait and for that reason, men have a harder time discussing their struggles with mental health, including depression. Men are less likely to reach out if they are struggling with depression or other factors affecting their mental health. For this reason among others, male suicide rates are significantly higher than female suicide rates.

Most statistics regarding issues such as domestic abuse and sexual assault, which can both greatly impact one's mental health, show reports primarily regarding female victims, sometimes exclusively. Men are victims of both domestic abuse and sexual assault far more often than shown in these data. While there is a great deal of exposure for support systems directed at women, few men are aware that support even exists for men in abusive situations. Furthermore, those men who are aware of resources available to them are less likely to seek them out as they are unsure that they will be believed and many believe that seeking support for issues involving feminine dominance is a threat to their masculinity. This goes back the notion the are raise on to believe that they are the stronger sex and should be in order to feel masculine.[4]

Toxic masculinity’s contribution to suicide

While it seems that more women are struggling so much that they feel they need to end their suffering, it is likely that women feel they have a better support system as they are more likely to reach out for support and people are generally more supportive towards women who do so then men. They are more likely to feel that they would be missed by people who show compassion for their pain and may feel that they would be hurting others if they are to take their lives. Men facing these challenges are more likely to isolate themselves in the process and feel a sense of detachment from those around them. They may even feel rejected by those that they do choose to reach out to as those around them may fail to respond to their pain with understanding and support.[5]

Women are more likely to attempt suicide, while men are more likely to die from suicide

The combined rates of male suicides are 19.9 per 100,000, while for women they are 5.7 per 100,000 people in first world countries. This is not however because women attempt suicide any less than men on average. More women than men attempt suicide on average, but fewer men survive their attempts.[5] Women are in fact about four times more likely to attempt suicide then men.[6] These statistics are partly due the methods at which they attempt suicide. Men on average choose more lethal methods of suicide, while women generally choose less effective methods. While the second most common method chosen for both men and women is hanging, the most common method chosen for women is poisoning, while men are more likely to use firearms. Women in western countries are especially likely to opt for a less lethal form of suicide.[5]

It is unclear why women gravitate to less lethal forms of suicide. It is possible that men feel more comfortable using weapons as it is something they are taught contributes to their masculinity. It is also possible that, though women are more likely to experience suicidal ideations, men feel them more severely when they are experienced. About 90% of people that commit suicide experience some form of mental health issue or addiction prior to their death, most commonly depression. Of these people that ended their lives, studies showed that a year before their death, 58% of women sought professional help, while only 35% of men did the same.[6]


  1. Salam, Maya. "What is Toxic Masculinity?". The New York Times. 
  2. 2.0 2.1 Schipper, William. "Forging the Male Spirit: The Spiritual Lives of American College Men". 
  3. Miller, Claire. "Many Ways to be a Girl, but One Way to be a Boy". The New York Times. 
  4. Mathias, Tamara. "Male victims of domestic abuse struggle to disclose abuse". Reuters. 
  5. 5.0 5.1 5.2 Goyne, Anne. "Suicide, male honour and the masculinity paradox: its impact on the ADF" (PDF). Australian Defense Force Journal.  line feed character in |title= at position 29 (help)
  6. 6.0 6.1 Milne, Vanessa. "The suicide gap: Why men are more likely to kill themselves". Healthy Debate.