Community and Public Health faculty and students explore the social determinants of suicide with visiting professor

Professor John Macdonald, Director of the Men's Health Information and Resource Center at the University of Western Sydney, led a discussion on the social determinants of male suicide in Australia in a workshop organized by Birzeit University’s Institute of Community and Public (ICPH) Health on Thursday, September 5, 2019.

In this lecture, Macdonald — who has been a visiting professor at ICPH for 25 years — explored the factors that affect suicide rates among men in Australia, which are usually higher than what official statistics represent, and is a difficult topic for families to  reveal, he noted.

Highlighting the increase in male suicide rates in Australia, Macdonald said that, on average, seven males take their lives every day, adding that public health experts do not pay enough attention to men’s health in Australia or the Western world in general.

Macdonald, who published a study on male suicide entitled “Pathways to Despair” and worked with the Australian Government as a consultant on the 2010 National Male Health Policy, explained that a number of social and economic factors, and the interplay among them, all lead to suicide among men.

These factors include: work-related issues, drug or alcohol abuse, psychological or social issues, and adverse childhood experiences. Macdonald stressed that each of these factors can amplify or exacerbate existent issues, leading to a closed-loop of despair that could end in suicide.

He emphasized the need for a holistic approach to health policies, saying that health experts, organizations, and institutes must look at the social determinants of the entire population and establish evidence-based policies that address all social, economic, and political factors affecting all segments of society.

At the end of the lecture, Macdonald and participants discussed the social determinants of suicide in the Gaza Strip, highlighting the strong social cohesion as one of the factors reducing the likelihood of suicide among men in the besieged enclave.