In my original writing on the subject of suicide in “’Debunking MRAs’ Debunked”, I was being mathematically lazy. Someone at the subreddit “feMRA debates” challenged me on where I got my numbers from. They didn’t agree with how I used an example of 100 male suicides compared to 35 women attempting suicide 3 times. They felt this was also a poor example as it actually meant 100 attempts on both sides. To be honest, I just compared the idea of 100 single completed suicides to 100 incomplete attempts, divided by 3, because it was easier to make reflective percentages. Due to this criticism, I chose to explore the numbers more accurately.
The statement is often framed poorly, such as “women attempt it three times as often”, which does not mean that women who attempt suicide do so three times as often individually, it means 3 times as many women attempt suicide as men. Of course, there are those who attempt suicide multiple times, which inflates their numbers. That is why I originally chose to tackle the numbers from a perspective of women attempting it 3 times, which is inaccurate. Using more lazy math, it probably would have been more accurate to have asked which is more important, 100 male deaths by suicide, or 300 females who have attempted suicide and still alive to seek help for what pushed them to their attempt? Instead, let’s look at the actual numbers that Owen Lloyd had.
According to the source given by “debunking MRAs”, in the U.S., there were 38,364 reported deaths by suicide in 2010, which is approximately one death by suicide every 14 minutes. 78.9% (30,269) of these were male. 21.1% (8,094) were female.
However, the argument that my calculations resulted in an equal number of attempts for both sexes is incorrect. Completed suicides are not counted in the attempts. The source says there is no complete count of attempted suicides, and that they arrive at their numbers by utilizing hospital reports of “non-fatal injuries resulting from self-harm behavior” collected by the CDC:
“In 2010, the most recent year for which data is available, 464,995 people visited a hospital for injuries due to self-harm behavior, suggesting that approximately 12 people harm themselves (not necessarily intending to take their lives) for every reported death by suicide. Together, those harming themselves made an estimated total of more than 650,000 hospital visits related to injuries sustained in one or more separate incidents of self-harm behavior.”
They admit that there is no way to distinguish genuine suicide attempts from non-suicidal self-injury (NSSI) behaviours. I assume the higher number of 650,000 is due to people making repeat visits, although, as mentioned above, “women attempt suicide 3 times as often” does not mean individual women attempt suicide at 3 times the rate of individual men, so we can’t determine the gender ratio of repeated attempts based on the information given. 487,500, 75%, of hospital visits can be attributed to females, while 162,500 visits can be attributed to men.
When framed in this fashion, it is also hard to make a concrete claim that women attempt suicide at three times the rate of men, as they state there is no way to differentiate a suicide attempt from NSSI with this data. The stats on females being admitted to hospitals at 3 times the rate of males for self-harm behaviour makes sense when considering that “one of the most consistent findings in the research literature until the end of the 20th century was that NSSI occurred 1.5 to 3 times more in females compared to males.” Furthermore, holding a gun to your head or putting a rope around your neck is not likely to warrant a hospital visit if you don’t follow through on what I would still perceive as a suicidal attempt. Statistics do not account for these attempts, for men or for women.