Whitewashing the truth of why men kill themselves

Opinion

Relationship troubles, not mental health, lie behind the plague of male suicides, writes Bettina Arndt.

Bettina ArndtColumnist

Imagine the outcry if a man was appointed head of a leading domestic violence prevention organisation? So how come the federal government has just proudly announced a woman, Christine Morgan, as National Suicide Prevention Officer? This is just the latest move by a government determined to deny the fact that suicide is overwhelmingly a male problem, with six out of eight of our daily suicides taking the lives of men.Amazingly the recently released National Suicide Prevention Implementation Plan is proudly “gender neutral”, failing to acknowledge that men not only dominate suicide statistics but offering no special programmes to address the unique causes of male suicide, which differ dramatically from those of women who end their own lives.

The alleged link to mental health problems is the most glaring mistake. “Around 80 per cent of people who die by suicide have a mental health issue,” declared ScoMo yesterday when announcing Morgan’s appointment. No, Prime Minister. That’s simply not true of men, the major group at risk. Australian research shows over half of all male suicides, 78 per cent of male farmer suicides and 83 per cent of suicides in older men were not predominantly associated with a mental health diagnosis – according to the Australian Institute of Suicide Research and Prevention and other related studies.

Most vulnerable group

The government proudly declares they are working towards a zero suicide goal yet the PM lists as those most at risk, “veterans, Indigenous Australians and young people”. Not one word about the most vulnerable group – the ordinary men, particularly family men in their 30s  and 40s losing their families.

That’s the elephant in the room that our governments are determined to ignore. There’s solid evidence that the major cause of suicide in this country is not mental health problems but rather the toll taken by family break-up, where fathers often face mighty battles trying to stay part of their children’s lives, up against a biased family law system which fails to enforce contact orders, and often facing false violence allegations which are now routinely used to gain advantage in family court battles.

Research by the Australian Institute of Suicide Research and Prevention found that almost half of male suicides are linked with relationship issues, one in 20 are linked to child custody issues, one in 10 to pending legal matters. That’s the glaring gender difference – with male suicide three to four times more likely than female suicide to be linked to relationship break-up and child custody.

This evidence has been accumulating for years and no one wants to talk about it. Remember that lavish ABC series, Man Up, made by radio star Gus Worland? Hours of television focusing on the high male suicide rate, endlessly discussing why men won’t talk about their feelings – and barely a word about why men are killing themselves. Last year Worland’s new charity, Gotcha4Life, raised nearly half a million dollars to “save the lives of men suffering mental illness”, money to be spent mainly on programmes in schools teaching boys to express their feelings.

The high male suicide rate is strongly related to relationship breakdowns.  Rob Homer

Whenever there’s a known link to female suicide, like post-partum depression, the money pours in to properly address the problem. Yet men struggling to deal with the devastating consequences of dealing with family break-up are given no support. Key organisations providing support for men in these circumstance – like Dads in Distress – face constant battles for funding.

Maybe it is time for the quiet Australians to speak out about this shocking whitewashing of the proper facts about suicide in this country. Contact your MP, ring radio stations, use social media posts to protest the government’s wrong-fisted handling of this important social issue. The six men dying each day in Australia deserve the truth to be told.

Posted in Hot Topics, Men's Issues, War on Men | Leave a comment

New laws to make lawyers pay for dirty divorce tactics

Crime & Justice

LAWYERS charging more than $28,000 a day in dirty Family Court battles are in the firing line as the Federal Government legislates to slash million-dollar legal costs.

One Australian couple spent at least $4.5 million fighting over a $12 million property pool in a two-year Family Court battle, The Sunday-Mail can reveal.

The Australian Law Reform Commission (ALRC) has warned that legal costs “routinely exceed $300,000 for each party and sometimes exceed $1 million” — particularly in Sydney, Brisbane and Melbourne.

Now the Morrison Government will grant judges stronger powers to “fine’’ lawyers who deliberately drag out proceedings, by forcing them to personally pay their client’s legal bills — or the rival side’s costs — as punishment.

How to save tens of thousands on your divorce

Top lawyer: Family Court ‘a mistake‘

Federal Attorney-General Christian Porter yesterday vowed to merge the Family Court with the Federal Circuit Court, and crack down on legal costs, once federal parliament resumes this week.

He said families going through the Family Court were experiencing “one of the most traumatic periods of their lives’’.

“It is incumbent on all involved within the court system to ensure that matters can be dealt with effectively, efficiently and as cheaply as possible,’’ he told The Sunday-Mail.

“The reforms would allow a judge to make an order that a lawyer bear costs personally for failure to assist a client comply with the duty to facilitate the just resolution of disputes as quickly, inexpensively and efficiently as possible.

“Doing so will assist Australian families spend less time in costly and protracted legal disputes.’’

Mr Porter tried to merge courts but failed to push his reforms through a hostile Senate before the May election.

He will now need the support of four crossbenchers in the new Senate, but is likely to win votes from Queensland’s two One Nation senators Pauline Hanson and Malcolm Roberts, who are pushing for family law reform.

Federal Attorney-General Christian Porter has promised huge reforms to the Family Court. Picture: AAP/Richard Wainwright
Federal Attorney-General Christian Porter has promised huge reforms to the Family Court. Picture: AAP/Richard Wainwright

The ALRC also wants the government to abolish the existing law that makes each party pay their own costs in family law cases, to reduce “ambit claims that are sometimes made without fear of the consequences’’.

ALRC president Sarah Derrington, who chaired the government’s 18-month review of family law, said some couples spent the entire asset pool on legal bills.

She said judges must be prepared to “wield the big stick’’ to prevent lawyers driving up costs.

“If a lawyer is seeking an adjournment on behalf of a client, both the client and the lawyer are expected to consider what effect that will have on any children,’’ Justice Derrington told The Sunday-Mail.

“It depends on the judges then being prepared to wield the big stick they’ve been given.’’

Justice Derrington has warned that divorce battles are creating a generation of damaged children, and called for state and territory governments to take over family law so that the same judges and magistrates consider custody, domestic violence and child abuse issues.

READERS’ STORIES

“I offered her $60,000 free of lawyers but her lawyer said he can get her the house. The washup: I lost $120,000, she got $40,000, our lawyers got $65,000.”

– Husband

“My son has been going to court for 10 years with no luck. It has cost him nearly $200,000 and he is now depressed.”

– Grandmother

“I have been in contact with the Family Court for nearly four years at a cost of $180,000 in legal fees.”

– Mother

“The court system has ruined my life. I had trouble seeing my daughter … three years into the system I lost my house, lost my business, my staff lost their jobs, I was forced into bankruptcy, I lost my super.”

– Father

“In the past two years I have spent $400,000 on defending my position in the Appeals Court. Fifteen minutes before the Full Court of Appeal I paid the ex-wife $108,000 extra – less than the $125,000 extra I offered in 2017 to settle before I spent the $400,000.”

– Husband

Posted in Family Law, Family Separation, Government Inquiries, Hot Topics, Newspaper Articles, Social Commentary | Leave a comment