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Suicide – Lack of Research or lack of Acknowledgment

Filed under: General — Downunder @ 11:45 am Thu 6th October 2005

This is especially for people who are stuck on the casual link theory.

Part 1.

is quoted directly from Suicide in Australia, a Dying Shame, published in November 2000 by the Wesley Mission.

Part 2.

Keith Rankin 2001.

Part 1.

“Marriage breakdown is a significant characteristic of male suicide in the 24-39 age bracket. The anxiety and emotional pain of separation and divorce appear to effect men differently. Whilst suicides may simply be recorded as statistics, it is the increasing number of murder/suicides, involving children that have brought the tragic reality of male suicide, and male mental health issues in general into the public arena. Where children are concerned, there is evidence to suggest that many men sense they are being discriminated against in Family Court judgements, and often find themselves in financial straits having to pay legal fees and child support payments. The difficulty in maintaining access to children also heightens the frustration and isolation of separated and/or divorced men.
“Following two murder/suicides in Western Australia in 1999, where fathers gassed both themselves and their children to death, Allan Huggins, director of Men’s Health, Teaching and Research at Curtin University, said “There is a whole range of psychological issues for them to deal with, but ultimately they see their situation as being totally hopeless and then a realm of fantasy begins where they want to take their children with them to what they perceive as being a better place.” It seems that ‘stressed fathers will keep killing’ both themselves and their children, until adequate support services are provided. Professor Pierre Baume, Head of the Australian Institute for Suicide Research and Prevention at Griffith University in Queensland found that, in a study of 4,000 suicides, at least 70% were associated with relationship break-ups. Men were 9 times more likely to take their own lives following break-up than women.

“Why do men and women respond so differently to separation? Research suggests that the majority of divorces are initiated by women, and that in most cases, married men did not want to separate and had tried to resolve the problems. Further evidence suggests that the period of ‘separation’ is one of the most stressful times in a man’s life, and often this anxiety and frustration continues for many years.”

Part 2.

I published a paper in 1999 on the way that the Child Support legislation makes it extremely expensive if not impossible for separated fathers (ie ‘secondary caregivers’) to have effective contact with their children. (See Fiscal and Welfare Barriers to Effective Fatherhood, or the revised internet-only version.)

My paper considers the financial position of a separated father of three whose only financial debt is a student loan. In order to provide a roof for his children during access, I assumed he would rent an apartment for $200 per week. If he was unemployed, after paying rent, tax and child support (which most likely would be paid to the state and not to his ex), he would have $2.34 to spend on himself and his children. (In practice, he would have to live in accommodation unsuitable for access.) If he then got a job grossing $500 per week, he would in effect keep 20% of that $500, leaving himself and his children a total of $102 per week for food, bills, transport etc.


  1. This all resonates deeply with my own personal experience of divorce. I recall the pits of despair, the callous uncaring officials and the grinding poverty trap having been cleaned out financially.
    These days I call myself a survivor.
    Sadly some men obviously don’t survive.

    Comment by Stephen — Thu 6th October 2005 @ 12:15 pm

  2. Some observations on the flawed logic that co-realtation implies causation : Espically for people who fall into the trap of “cum hoc ergo propter hoc” when thinking they have a casual link.

    Correlation implies causation, also known as cum hoc ergo propter hoc (Latin for “with this, therefore because of this”) and false cause, is a logical fallacy by which two events that occur together are claimed to be cause and effect.

    For example:

    Teenage boys eat lots of chocolate.
    Teenage boys have acne.
    Therefore, chocolate causes acne.
    This argument, and any of this pattern, is an example of a false categorical syllogism. One observation about it is that the fallacy ignores the possibility that the correlation is coincidence. But we can always pick an example where the correlation is as robust as we please. If chocolate-eating and acne were strongly correlated across cultures, and remained strongly correlated for decades or centuries, it probably is not a coincidence. In that case, the fallacy ignores the possibility that there is a common cause of eating chocolate and having acne.

    Another important factor which should be considered is the presence or absence of a known mechanism which may explain how one event causes the other. Using the above example, if chocolate contains large quantities of hydrogenated fats, or trans-fatty acids, and if those have been shown to clog pores and thus cause acne, then the link between chocolate and acne is more believable. A counter-example would be astrology, where there is no convincing known mechanism to describe why personality would be effected by the position of the stars. Of course, the absence of a known mechanism doesn’t preclude the possibility of an unknown mechanism.

    For one event to be the cause of another, in the normal world, it must happen first. In some cases the precipitating event may happen so quickly before the result, or may overlap the result in time, so they are said to occur simultaneously. However, the precipitating event can’t happen after the result, for example, by concluding that a current increase in population caused a baby boom many years ago.

    Next example:

    Ice-cream sales are strongly (and robustly) correlated with crime rates.
    Therefore, ice-cream causes crime.
    The above argument commits the cum hoc ergo propter hoc fallacy, because in fact the explanation is that high temperatures increase crime rates (presumably by making people irritable) as well as ice-cream sales.

    Another observation is that the direction of the causation is wrong and should be the other way around.

    For example:

    Gun ownership is correlated with crime.
    Therefore, gun ownership leads to crime.
    The facts could easily be the other way round: increase in crime could lead to more gun ownership with concerned citizens.

    The statement “correlation does not imply causation” notes that it is dangerous to deduce causation from a statistical correlation. If you only have A and B, a correlation between them does not let you infer A causes B, or vice versa, much less ‘deduce’ the connection. But if there was a common cause, and you had that data as well, then often you can establish what the correct structure is. Likewise (and perhaps more usefully) if you have a common effect of two independent causes.

    But while often ignored, the advice is often overstated, as if to say there is no way to infer causal structure from statistical data. Clearly we should not conclude that ice-cream causes criminal tendencies (or that criminals prefer ice-cream to other refreshments), but the previous story shows that we expect the correlation to point us towards the real causal structure. Robust correlations often imply some sort of causal story, whether common cause or something more complicated. Hans Reichenbach suggested the Principle of the Common Cause, which asserts basically that robust correlations have causal explanations, and if there is no causal path from A to B (or vice versa), then there must be a common cause, though possibly a remote one.

    Reichenbach’s principle is closely tied to the Causal Markov condition used in Bayesian networks. The theory underlying Bayesian networks sets out conditions under which you can infer causal structure, when you have not only correlations, but also partial correlations. In that case, certain nice things happen. For example, once you consider the temperature, the correlation between ice-cream sales and crime rates vanishes, which is consistent with a common-cause (but not diagnostic of that alone).

    In statistics literature this issue is often discussed under the headings of spurious correlation and Simpson’s paradox.

    David Hume argued that any form of causality cannot be perceived (and therefore cannot be known or proven), and instead we can only perceive correlation. However, we can use the scientific method to rule out false causes.

    Humorous example
    An entertaining demonstration of this fallacy once appeared in an episode of The Simpsons (Season 7, “Much Apu about Nothing”). The city had just spent millions of dollars creating a highly sophisticated “Bear Patrol” in response to the sighting of a single bear the week before.

    Homer: Not a bear in sight. The “Bear Patrol” must be working like a charm!
    Lisa: That’s specious reasoning, Dad.
    Homer: Thank you, dear.
    Lisa: By your logic I could claim that this rock keeps tigers away.
    Homer: Oh, how does it work?
    Lisa: It doesn’t work.
    Homer: Uh-huh.
    Lisa: It’s just a stupid rock. But I don’t see any tigers around, do you?
    Homer: (pause) Lisa, I want to buy your rock.

    Comment by Scrap_The_CSA — Mon 10th October 2005 @ 10:00 am

  3. Yes syllogistic thinking is a pitfall for the unwary. Which is precisely why I’m pleased to see there’s more research being done into male depression in NZ going on.
    Then the researchers may too find that there are indeed clear links betwen the way men are treated in NZ culture and their ongoing over-respresentation in suicidality figures.

    Ironically there seems to be a rather cruel syllogism at work in the heads of some who refuse to believe there’s any possibility of a link between the two.
    It seems to go like this –
    Men who’ve suicided can’t speak because they’re dead.
    So we can’t find out what reasons they had for suiciding.
    So we can’t say it’s a response to any social/cultural pressures put upon those men.
    So we should just give up trying to impute why they killed themselves.

    However, what I can say with absolute certainty after over more than 20 years experience of pastoral care and social work in NZ is that social conditions are still significantly more difficult for men than women in NZ – And there is a massive amount of statistical evidence showing gender comparative indices of distress to prove that. Everything from rates of homeless, drug addiction and imprisonment through to greater pathology and lesser longevity. All in all a picture of male wellbeing not being as highly valued and supported by NZ society as female wellbeing.
    Just visit Stuart Birks website for a plethora of examples to start with.

    So I see no reason to NOT connect suicidality amongst men in NZ with social conditions for men there.
    And to throw in my bit of Latin grammar too –

    None illigitimus tatum carborundum.
    (Don’t let the bastards grind you down)

    Comment by Stephen — Wed 12th October 2005 @ 12:22 am

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