Sunday, September 10 is World Suicide Prevention Day 2017. This is an annual day to promote worldwide action to prevent suicides. Wouldn’t it be good if this year, we could actually focus on that rather than merely virtue signalling?
In Australia, we know the male suicide crisis is heartbreakingly out of control. Men are three times more likely than women to take their own lives than women. That in itself tells us male suicide in particular needs a deeper understanding and change of approach to make a difference. Where are we going wrong – and what can we do better?
Stop Male Suicide Project’s Glen Poole tells me, “Blaming men for not talking about their feelings is not an effective approach. We need to transform the way the suicide prevention sector helps men. It’s not simply about asking for more funding, it’s about making sure the resources we already have are targeted more effectively at men.”
The Stop Male Suicide Project is a training and development company that’s running events around Australia in the national first male suicide prevention conference being held in Sydney in November.
“Most women who die by suicide have a mental health diagnosis, for a condition such as depression, but male suicide isn’t primarily associated with a mental health issue,” Poole says.
“With men, we often need to place more focus on the external factors such as loss of relationship, job, income, home, bereavement and loss of access to children. When men respond to these distressing situations by turning to alcohol and other substances their risk of suicide increases. It’s becoming increasingly common to claim that the solution to the problem of male suicide is encouraging men to talk about their feelings.
”But there’s no point telling men to share the secrets of their inner worlds if we’re not prepared to hear men talk about the problems they’re dealing with in the outside world.
“In my experience, the issue isn’t that individual men don’t talk; the problem lies in our collective inability to listen to men and let them talk about the challenges they are facing in their own words. We need to place far more focus on supporting men to fix and cope with the situations we know are associated with male suicide.”
For once, this isn’t about increasing government funding. Rather, it’s about providing services more effectively.
Poole adds, “This is why support services like Dads In Distress and MATES In Construction are proving so effective at helping men with issues like dealing with the family courts. They take a male-friendly approach to tackling the problems men face and most importantly, they know how to identify, talk with and listen to, men at risk of suicide.”
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