Studying the impact of gender and culture on suicide rates

Approximately 23 per 100,000 people in China commit suicide each year. Hundreds of thousands of those people are women, and Dr. Paul Links, Chair/Chief of the Department of Psychiatry, is interested in finding out why.

As part of a CIHR funded China-Canada Joint Health Research Initiative, Dr. Links is involved in a collaborative project with Pozi Liu, Head of the Department of Psychiatry at Tsinghua University in Beijing, China. Together they are looking at gender role conflict in Chinese and Chinese-Canadian women who have had suicidal behaviour.

“Culture and gender have an impact on suicide,” Dr. Links said. “In Canada, men commit suicide four times more frequently than women, but the situation is different in China where women tend to outnumber men in terms of death by suicide.”

By working with Chinese-Canadian women who have immigrated to Canada, as well as Chinese women who have not immigrated, Dr. Links and Liu hope to gain a better understanding of what gender and culture have to do with creating risk in these women.

This research could eventually lead to prevention by providing strategies on how to intervene earlier and more effectively.

Dr. Links explained the purpose of the study is to create a theoretical model of why these patients are at risk. “It’s really about capturing their stories, and from their stories developing an in-depth understanding,” he said.

Earlier this year, Dr. Links visited the West China Hospital at Sichuan University in Chengdu, China to present the data they have already collected throughout the study. This gave Dr. Links the opportunity to receive feedback from global colleagues, and helped to further the international relationships Schulich Medicine & Dentistry has already developed.