IT’S an issue that many men don’t want to talk about and it’s having a devastating impact on families and communities. It’s time we broke the silence on male suicide.
TODAY, on World Mental Health Day, news.com.au is launching a campaign to highlight men’s mental health issues.
While mental health is an issue across the community, men are three times more likely than women to take their own lives and news.com.au believes this could potentially be changed.
Suicide is the leading cause of death in Australian men aged 15 to 44 and it’s more than double the national road toll.
“It’s incredibly concerning, the over-representation of men in suicide statistics” SANE Australia chief executive Jack Heath told news.com.au.
In Australia, about 75 per cent of suicides are committed by men. They are three times more likely to self-harm than women.
Despite the billions that are spent on mental health services, the number of suicides increased by 9 per cent from 2016 to 2017.
Men are also more likely to succeed in their first reported suicide attempt and are less likely than women to have asked for help.
It’s something that news.com.au wants to change.
As part of The Silent Killer: Let’s make some noise campaign, news.com.au is encouraging men to talk to each other, and their family and friends, about what’s going on in their lives.
While much of the focus of suicide prevention has been on those diagnosed with a mental illness, around 80 per cent of male suicides are not linked to any mental health diagnosis according to Glen Poole, Development Officer at the Australian Men’s Health Forum and founder of the Stop Male Suicide project.
Instead many men are simply struggling to deal with different types of life crises including relationship breakdown, work issues, financial stress, health and other issues.
He believes the key is to focus on helping men to deal with those life crises.
Gotcha4Life co-founder Gus Worland agreed and said having someone to talk to when times got tough, had helped him to manage stressful or emotional situations in the past.
“You’ve got to have someone in your life that you can talk to, warts and all,” he said. “Someone you can have a discussion with about anything and know that you won’t be judged. That person may not have an answer but you will have their heart and their ear, and it will allow you to get stuff off your chest.”
Mr Worland and his friend Gareth Pike co-founded Gotcha4Life to encourage men to identify those people in their lives who they could have deeper conversations with.
“We can all be surrounded by mates, they can be close mates or just ones you hang out at the footy with. But it’s unusual to have someone you can properly confide in,” Mr Pike said.
“The first step is identifying whether that person is someone you should have in your life. Then decide who among your friends can be that person, because it’s not everybody.
“If you don’t have someone like that in your group of friends, maybe you need to find one.”
Movember mental health and suicide prevention mental lead Dr Nic Vogelpoel said its programs also focused on improving social connections as well as developing programs like their SpeakEasy events where men gather together to have “open, honest and real conversations”, as well reaching young boys through sports.
While it was easy to say that pressures to “act like a man” or to be stoic, discouraged men from talking about their problems, Dr Vogelpoel said there many different factors that could impact how men felt about themselves.
“Feeling to pressure to ‘be a man’ is just one part of who we are as men, there are many other pressures,” he said.
“Transitional points often come earlier now and they can cause stress and burden. As we get older our social networks change and we can struggle to keep our friendships.
“We change jobs more often and for some people this can be positive but for others it’s not. We move a lot more than before … and the pressures of fatherhood are really burdensome for some.”
Dr Vogelpoel said talking could help some because it forced people to articulate their thoughts and feelings.
“For some it’s a good way to understand where they’re at and what to do next. You can listen to the way you’re describing yourself to people in your life.”
This process can help men to find the language to describe exactly how they are feeling.
“While learning how to have the conversation, we can also learn how to be a good mate and a good listener, and to receive those same messages and calls from your friends.”
The popular radio host opened up about his use of marijuana and alcohol, and battles with mental health. Hughesy, now 47, said not really knowing what he wanted to do in his life led to the drug use and battle with mental health during his formative years.
Something is very wrong with Australian men. And today, six blokes across the country will take their own lives as a result. Despite campaigns aimed at men’s mental health and enormous efforts to reduce the stigma attached to suicide, there’s still something holding Aussie blokes back from reaching out. And the outcomes of that are alarming.
Aussie blokes are still tough nuts to crack when opening up about their feelings to loved ones. Click here for a full list of anonymous helplines and community support that men can call on.
Triple M radio host Gus Worland has opened up the phone message he received 11 years ago that led to him launching a not-for-profit organisation to tackle men’s mental health.
He was overseas at the time and received a message that his mentor, Angus Roberts, had taken his own life.
“He was the closest thing to a superhero without a cape and was someone I absolutely adored,” Worland said of his mate.
We talk about the gender pay gap a lot in Australia, but there is another gender gap that needs our attention.
Last year 3128 people killed themselves in this country. Three quarters of them were men.
To anyone involved in suicide prevention, that figure is horribly familiar, because it is similarly skewed every year.
“What we know is that three out of every four suicides are men. Eight suicides a day in Australia; six are men,” Stop Male Suicide founder Glen Poole said.
Mr Poole believes Australia, and indeed most of the world, has been “missing the point” in its efforts to stop men from taking their own lives.
If you or someone you know needs support with their mental health, please contact one of these support organisations:
• Lifeline 24/7: 13 11 14 or www.lifeline.org.au
• Suicide Call Back Service: 1300 659 467 or www.suicidecallbackservice.org.au
• MensLine Australia: 1300 78 99 78 or www.mensline.org.au