For many years, suicide has been regarded as a mental health issue despite warnings from this Agency and others, that many men take their own life when faced with a relationship breakdown and the ongoing effects of the legislation and attitudes that work to deny men/fathers a life with their children after separation. Government policies can be changed to eliminate the factors that drive men to suicide. Loss of their family life and children, is exacerbated by the treatment men receive when they seek information from the various services that are supposed to assist. Mediation services are difficult to access and many mediators bring their own agenda with them by adopting the flawed theory of Primary Attachment for young children successfully alienating the child from the undeniable benefit of receiving the love and care that can be provided by the father; the Family Court of Australia, fails to listen to fathers’ genuine concerns as to the safety of their children because they just cannot bring themselves to accept that mothers are not always kind to their children; domestic violence legislation is misused to demonise men/fathers, remove them from the home and give the mother an advantage in upcoming court proceedings not to mention instance access to emergency housing; meanwhile the Child Support Agency whose only goal in life seems to revolve around extracting maximum dollars out of paypackets in order to reduce government outlays on family tax benefit based on concocted income figures that bear little relationship to the actual amount a father might earn.
In 1998, this Agency attended a Men and Relationships conference sponsored by the Federal Government. Fact sheets published for the event highlighed the findings of Professor Pierre Baume and others.
Professor Pierre Baume, head of the Australian Institute for Suicide Research and Prevention at Griffith University in Queensland, found in a study of 4,000 suicides that 70% were caused by relationship break-ups. Men were found to commit suicide more readily than women by a factor of nine to one.
Suicide death rates are much higher in men than women. Research by R.D. Goldney found that each year more than 2,000 people commit suicide in Australia with more than 1,800 males killing themselves in 1991 and 1992 (Proceedings from the National Men’s Health Conference, August 1995, p53).
Marriage seems to act as a protector against premature death. A comparative study of 16 developed countries showed not only that unmarried men have higher death rates and divorced men higher rates of premature death, but also that the difference has been growing over the past three decades. A British follow-up study on health and lifestyles found that divorce increases the risk of death in every age group for men (D.Edgar, Men, Mateship, Marriage, Harper Collins 1997).
All of these issues can be addressed to reduce the numbers of men who take their own lives. The social policies adopted by this and previous governments are a significant factor in contributing towards the unnecessary death of these men.
And now the authorities and researchers seem to be catching up … at least for the farming community, not that these findings might not fit other lifestyle categories. They do.
stopmalesuicide recently posted that:
Most male farmer suicide not caused by mental health issues
Posted on March 28, 2017
New research on male suicide amongst Australian farmers has found that around 4 out of 5 (78%) of suicides studied were linked to situational distress with 1 in 5 (22%) characterised by longstanding mental health issues.
The Study by the Australian Institute of Suicide Research and Prevention found that the two most common situational factors that male farmers who died by suicide were dealing with were relationship issues and financial issues.
Half of the male farmers who died by suicide had experienced a relationship breakdown, with 56% of these men experiencing an acute stress response to relationship breakdown and child custody or paternity problems. Men in this group were between 30 and 58 years old.
According to the authors of the report, recent relationship breakdown is said to be central to understanding suicidal process in Australian males. They argue that recent separation from a partner entails a significant acute risk factors of subsequent suicidal behaviour, particularly for men, with separation and divorce thought to cause shame and anger, threatening masculinity and traditional gender roles and leading to acute stress, depression and substance abuse.
Separation and divorce also impacts the male role as a father, which may be limited or removed, say the authors. Recent relationship breakup can also lead to social isolation, especially in rural and remote areas and also to feeling of burden to family and friends, factors which are thought to increase suicide risk.
Around three out of ten (28%) of the male farmers who died by suicide were experiencing financial difficulties. Of these, 80% were facing pending retirement. According to the report, this groups were experiencing an acute stress response to situational factors, related to recent long work hours, pending farm duties as well as farm related issues experienced in the years prior to death, such as mill closure, deregulation of milk and crop disease).
Ongoing Mental Health Issues
Around one in five (22%) male farmers in the study experienced long-term mental health problems, characterised by evidence of an established psychiatric disorder. An additional shared feature was exposure to suicide on at least two occasions across the lifespan as shown. Suicidality in this group was protracted over many years and men had contact with the mental health treatment during adulthood with three quarters of the men in this group verbally communicating intent to die by suicide prior to their death.
Alcohol and Drug Issues
Excessive us of alcohol and/or drug abuse was also a common factor, particularly for the group of men dealing with relationship issues, with abuse or dependency reported in 78% of this group.
According to the authors, this study suggests that male farmers require targeted prevention, assessment and treatment strategies in their rural and regional communities across the lifespan from boarding school to planning retirement and succession planning.
Strategies the authors recommend considering include: restricting access to means particularly on presentation to a health professional, relationship and family counselling, financial counselling (particularly retirement preparation), public health and stigma
reduction campaigns particularly around understanding the symptoms of depression and anxiety and the association between physical and mental health and mental illness. In addition to the community related activities, the authors say there is also a need for national policies, which could provide financial advice and support dignified financial exit, especially for older farmers, but also support training and new businesses
In conclusion, the authors say: “For most farmers, intent was not communicated, nor was there previous suicide exposure, instead the process was acute, in response to two salient situational stressors of romantic relationship breakdown for middle aged men, and for older men, financial difficulties pending retirement. For other farmers, who experienced many years of a psychiatric disorder, the process was protracted.”
•Download the Pathways to suicide in farmers report here
•See our short article Making Sense of Male Suicide here
•Male Friendly Approaches To Preventing Suicide