The Icelandic Directorate of Health has recently issued a new report analysing the rate of suicide across the entire country in 2017, finding particularly striking differences amongst sexes.
32 Icelandic men committed suicide in Iceland last year, against only 2 Icelandic women and six foreigners of undisclosed gender, for a total of 40 individuals. In addition, the report registered a surprisingly high rate of suicides in the Westfjörds of Iceland.
According to psychiatrist Óttar Guðmundsson, it’s difficult to pinpoint the exact reasons behind these numbers. “It just looks like men are feeling much worse than women,” he told Kjarninn in an interview.
Óttar draws connections with the rates of alcoholism, insisting that when men are in grave psychological conditions they can have a much more aggressive reaction than women do. They also tend to drink more and get much more drunk, increasingly sinking into more severe depression.
Another crucial difference lies in the approach to self expression. Even though various social media campaigns have been encouraging men to speak up in order to fight an often toxic culture of machismo, men are still much less likely to talk about their own feelings than women do.
That is not to say that women are immune to depression. According to Óttar, in fact, women are much more likely to engage in suicide attempts or self-harm as a cry for help than men are.
The Directorate’s report also registered an unusually high rate of suicides in the far Westfjörds of Iceland last year, where most of Iceland’s suicides were completed. The South Coast, however, has the most suicides per capita in the same year.
It’s hard to draw any conclusions from this data, says Óttar, but what we can do is use the numbers to implement a prevention system that targets the groups at risk. “It’s really important for us to know what we have at hand,” he explains. “We cannot use preventive measures unless we know where to direct them.”