Men’s welfare, particularly their mental health, is at the mercy of feminist ideology, which contributes to our alarming rate of male suicide | The Australian

The highest suicide rates have been observed in middle-aged men

For two days this week the lawns of Parliament House have been strewn with 2500 empty shoes, one for each of the men and boys who die in Australia each year through suicide. According to the Australian Institute of Health and Welfare our male suicide rate is overall three to four times higher than the female rate, and mainly involves men in mid-life. These are the major predictive facts about suicide: being male; being divorced, widowed or separated; living alone; being unemployed. The suicide rate in Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people is twice that of the non-Indigenous population.

Meanwhile, the government is concentrating all preventive efforts on domestic violence against women, always seen as “gendered” violence; in other words, men being violent towards women. According to organisations such as White Ribbon, domestic violence is just a male problem. It is their fault. What’s more, according to its media releases this week for White Ribbon Day, most men just can’t see it or know what to do about it. White Ribbon demands they “educate” themselves because “violence against women is at epidemic proportions, and (our research) contrasts that with the reasons men have given us for not getting involved. We think men will see that there’s no good reason to not step up this year and either make a donation or educate themselves. Because with one in three Australian women being a victim of violence, it’s not just a women’s issue, it’s everyone’s issue”.

But guess what? According to the Australian Bureau of Statistics there are 47 male deaths from suicide per week. Meanwhile, there are 71 females who die from fatal domestic violence per year, that equals 1.36 per week. So male suicides, which are 35 times as numerous as deaths from DV, should also be everyone’s issue. But where is the advertising campaign? Where is the support? The ads that are all about “gendered violence” just blame men, and boys, and the support for men at risk of suicide, except for veterans of the armed forces, is almost nil.

You might say these two issues, DV and male suicide, are not comparable. But think about them in the psychosocial terms of the health and social wellbeing of the community. Most importantly, how well do we value the health and welfare of each section of the population, male and female?

Domestic violence is, as I know, real and has all sorts of serious intergenerational effects. My paternal grandfather was a violent man, who terrorised his family. But, and this is the big but, where is the nuance in the “domestic violence is gendered” statements like the ones White Ribbon uses? It is all the fault of men and apparently the men have to educate themselves. This is simplistic. It is ideology, plain and simple.

What of the pathologies that plague all of us, and our whole society? Why is something that involves two people presented as one-dimensional: man bad perpetrator, woman good victim? The DV lobby does not allow presentation of this problem in any other way, because allowing any nuance might question the simplistic assumptions that underlie the narrow, prismatic feminist ideology that governs all current social legislation, especially in family law.

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One fact of male trauma the feminist trope will not admit is that men’s mental and psychological welfare is often eroded by the constant blame and fear of being blamed. No wonder, as even White Ribbon admits, men are confused. None of the DV advocates who speak in terms of “gendered violence” and male “toxic” behaviour look at the root causes of violence.

Importantly, these overlap with the causes of male suicide: substance abuse, unemployment, isolation, intergenerational dysfunction (especially in Aboriginal men and young boys), and family breakdown, which affects all classes and groups of men, but particularly men in the highest age bracket for suicide.

Since 2008, the highest suicide rates have been observed in middle-aged males (aged 40-49). But groups such as White Ribbon are not really interested in the male’s welfare within a marriage or domestic partnership; furthermore, its view of female welfare is so one-dimensionally seen as victimhood that it never admits the couple dynamic.

However, male suicide, though complex, is often triggered, in the words of the AIHW research, by “a recent stressful life event”, especially divorce or final separation from a long-term partner. That has been cited by all research into Australian male suicide as the overwhelming reason behind the rise in middle-life suicide, especially where children are involved.

Divorce is not just a single event; it causes a cascading series of problems, and men in contested divorce cases often find themselves in a maze of legal and financial dead ends, with a mounting psychological toll of usually concealed trauma.

An inquiry into the operation of family law earlier this century was one of the longest in Australian history and found suicide among Australian men was disproportionately associated with family law disputes, especially over custody of children. What is more, the level of false accusations was outrageous. Consequently, in 2006 family law was redrafted to give fathers more say in parenting their children after divorce, with a presumption of shared parenting.

Now, due to the untoward influence of the feminist lobby, for whom all marriages are potential minefields of domestic violence, that sensible and humane principle has been abandoned. This is not “reform”. It is a regression to the past. It is a disastrous change, which will cause more false accusations of violence and more harm to fathers of children and, consequently, more male suicides.



Angela Shanahan is a Canberra-based freelance journalist and mother of nine children. She has written regularly for The Australian for over 20 years, The Spectator (British and Australian editions) for over 10 year… Read more