Men and women adopt suicidal behaviours expected within cultures

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Washington, Aug 13 (ANI): In US, men and women adopt suicidal tendencies that are expected of them within their cultures, according to a psychologist.

Dr. Silvia S. Canetto, of Colorado State University revealed that women and girls in US consider and engage in suicidal behaviour more often than men and boys, but die of suicide at lower rate - a gender paradox enabled by U.S. cultural norms of gender and suicidal behaviour.

"Everywhere, suicidal behavior is culturally scripted. Women and men adopt the self-destructive behaviors that are expected of them within their cultures," said Dr. Silvia S. Canetto, of Colorado State University.

While the gender paradox of suicidal behaviour is common, particularly in industrialized countries, it is not universal, she said.

In China, for example, women die of suicide at higher rates than men. In Finland and Ireland, men and women engage in nonfatal suicidal behaviour at similar rates.

There are more exceptions to the gender paradox of suicidal behaviour when one examines female/male patterns of suicidality by age or culture, she said.

In some cultures, particularly in industrialized countries, such as the United States and Canada, suicide is considered a masculine act and an "unnatural" behaviour for women, said Canetto.

"In these countries, the dominant view is that 'successful, completed' suicide is the masculine way to do suicide. In the U.S., women who kill themselves are considered more deviant than men. By contrast, in other cultures, killing oneself is considered feminine behavior (and is more common in women)," she said.

She cited, among others, the Aguaruna people of Peru, who view suicide as an indication of a feminine inability to control strong emotions.

Yet in other cultures, men's and women's suicidal behavior is similar. For example, in Sri Lanka, the same types of issues (problems with spouses, parents or in-laws) are typically associated with both women's and men's suicides.

"A broad cultural perspective shows that women and men do not consistently differ in terms of the kinds of suicidal behavior they engage in, or with regard to the circumstances or the motives of their suicidal behavior," she said. "When women and men differ with regard to some dimensions of suicidal behavior, the meaning and salience of these differences vary from one social group to another, one culture to another, one historical period to another, depending on local scripts of gender and suicidal behaviour," said Canetto.

The cultural variability in patterns and scripts of women's and men's suicidal behaviour calls for "culturally situated suicidality research and prevention" she added.

Canetto presented her findings at the 118th Annual Convention of the American Psychological Association. (ANI)

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