UBC Faculty Research and Publications

Suicidal ideation in men during COVID-19 : an examination of protective factors Seidler, Zac E.; Wilson, Michael J.; Oliffe, John Lindsay; Fisher, Krista; O'Connor, Rory; Pirkis, Jane; Rice, Simon M.


Background: Men account for three-quarters of all suicide deaths in many Western nations including Australia. Whilst extensive research has examined risk factors for suicidal ideation and behaviour in men, protective factors remain underexplored, particularly social support, resilience and coping behaviours. Such factors are important to examine particularly in the context of COVID-19, where enforced isolation (among other negative lifestyle effects) has created widespread risk for the development of suicidal ideation. This mixed-methods study aimed to examine associations of various protective factors with suicidal ideation in men, using data from an online survey conducted during the COVID-19 pandemic. In addition, we aimed to qualitatively investigate men’s self-reported protective strategies when experiencing suicidal thoughts and behaviour. Methods: A convenience sample of 700 men (age M = 50.3 years; SD = 15.2 years) responded to an online survey including quantitative measures of suicidal ideation, planning and attempt, alongside employment and relationship status, coping, social support, resilience, and a qualitative free-text item gauging men’s self-reported protective strategies. Multinomial logistic regression was applied to compare odds of sub-categories of suicide risk (ideation; planning) according to protective factors. Qualitative responses were analysed via thematic analysis. Results: Men in a relationship, and those lower in emotion-focused and avoidant coping reported lower odds of suicidal ideation. Maintaining employment throughout the pandemic was protective against suicidal ideation and planning; as was greater perceived social support from friends. Greater self-reported resilience was protective against suicidal ideation and planning. Qualitative analyses led to the development of two themes: coping and connecting, reflecting men’s intra- and interpersonal management strategies; and sustaining selflessness, where men’s imaginings of the collateral damage of their suicidal behaviour was protective against action on suicidal thoughts or plans. Conclusions: Findings of this study speak to the nuanced roles of interpersonal connections, resilience and coping behaviours in protecting against suicidal ideation and planning in men. In addition, qualitative insights further cement men’s identification with familial protector and/or provider roles as protective against suicidal action.

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