Research projects

Men’s experiences with suicidal behaviour and depression

Principal researchers

Associate Professor Judy Proudfoot, Director of e-Health, Black Dog Institute, AI Centre of Research Excellence in Suicide Prevention.
Professor Helen Christensen, Executive Director, Black Dog Institute, CIA Centre of Research Excellence in Suicide Prevention.
Professor Kay Wilhelm, Research Director, Faces in the Street, St. Vincent’s Health Urban Health Research.
Mr Dusan Hadzi-Pavlovic, Senior Hospital Scientist and Statistician.
Doctor Fiona Shand, Senior Research Fellow, Black Dog Institute, Centre of Research Excellence in Suicide Prevention.


Black Dog Institute/NHMRC Centre of Research Excellence in Suicide Prevention


The Movember Foundation

Co-funded with        

Beyond Blue

Award type   

Request for proposal process

Project completion year      

June 2014

Key findings

The study revealed common risk factors and a common pathway leading to suicidal behaviour. Awareness of this pattern is important because it provides a guide for when and how to interrupt suicidal behaviour, and what warning signs may look like. Four traits or experiences were common among suicidal men:

  1. Depression or disturbed mood.
  2. Beliefs and personal values with strong emphasis on masculinity and stoicism.
  3. Stressful life events.
  4. A tendency to withdraw, or avoid problems, in order to cope.

When these four features interacted and got worse over time, this increased the risk of suicide, and creating various barriers to treatment or intervention. For example, men reported that having ‘masculine’ beliefs often meant they didn’t accept feelings or ask for help. Therefore, when stressful events happened, men withdrew or attempted to numb themselves with alcohol or drugs. This avoidance and isolation tended not to improve problems but make them worse, pushing men further along the path towards suicidality.

Participants reported that suicidality tended to develop over three stages:

  1. Depression and stress interact creating a downward spiral in mood and activity.
  2. Over time, suffering leads men to have suicidal thoughts.
  3. Finally, men ‘hit bottom’ and become hopeless. At this point they may attempt suicide.

Men may show warning signs to family or friends, which can provide clues as to what stage of suicidality men are in, as well as clues for the best way to intervene. Warning signs therefore act as a useful guide for how to interrupt the path towards suicide.

Implications for policy and practice

Accurately interpreting behavioural change was critical to interrupting suicide in men – this was a task that men, family and friends acknowledged was complex and difficult. Therefore, an important finding from this study was the need for public education for males, as well as their families and friends.

Health professionals and allied services also played an important role in preventing suicide. Importantly, professional assessments and interventions should address not only suicidal behaviour, but also the core contributors to suicidality, e.g., depression or unhelpful masculine beliefs.

Future directions

Findings therefore suggest that education and intervention across the community should focus on:

  • developing awareness about warning signs
  • understanding behaviours related to aggression and risk taking
  • learning strategies for dealing with stress and depression
  • developing different resources for men with varying needs
  • challenging unhelpful ways that masculinity is presented in society

Download Men's Experience – Communications report

Download Men's Experience – Final report


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