Masocco, M., Pompili, M., Vanacore, N., Innamorati, M., Lester, D., Girardi, P., Tatarelli, R., & Vichi, M. (2009). Completed Suicide and Marital Status According to the Italian Region of Origin Psychiatric Quarterly, 81 (1), 57-71 DOI: 10.1007/s11126-009-9118-2
‘Suicide prevention can be more effective when socio-cultural variables are taken in account. It is unlikely that a standard suicide prevention strategy will be successful if it lacks appropriate adaptation to the cultural background of the population to whom it is addressed. Italy is a country of great internal diversity, and variations in suicide rates are partially understandable by taking into account specific socio-cultural characteristics’ (Masocco et al. (2009), p.68).
Research by Masocco et al. (2009), has confirmed what we already knew: marriage is a protective factor for suicide. I would argue, for suicide in men. Marriage tends to be detrimental to women’s emotional health and well-being. Masocco et al. (2009), urge researchers to look deeper to try to understand why the suicide rates across Italy vary so much from region-to-region. Their conclusion, and one with which I concur, is that suicide is a ‘multifaceted phenomenon’ (p.58). Marriage might be a protective factor for some men as much as being unemployed can be a risk factor. We see that here in Australia, where there is well-established positive association between socio-economic status, gender (male), and suicide. The folly of much effort in the suicide prevention industry, however, is to assume that suicide is a universal phenomenon precipitated by a universal mental disorder (depression), and so strategies are homogenised and generalised. Such an approach also avoids what governments hate most: scrutiny of their policy failures. Australia’s economic boom has left behind, in some instances for decades now, many communities in our major cities and our rural, regional, and remote areas. In seeking to understand the specificity of suicidal ideation and actions, it will take much more than identifying those subtle characteristics. After all, singly and in combination, there are simply too many of them residing within what is, when it comes to suicide deaths, a statistically non-significant population. Only by addressing the social problems that lead to suicidal ideation (unemployment, poverty, hegemonic masculinity, etc.), might we expect to see a drop in the suicide rate. Alas, the suicide prevention industry remains fixated on the pointy end of how to save lives in that illusory crisis moment when conversely, the real task is not to stop people from dying but to enable them to live.