Our National Shame – The Epidemic of Male Suicide

Written by Jasmin
Suicide is the leading cause of death for men in Australia aged 15 – 44 and yet we are doing very little to really talk about it, or address it in any effective manner.

 

In our current media frenzy of the ‘epidemic’ of domestic violence, Australia has forgotten the silent epidemic that is killing thousands of Australians every year.

 

In the 2 year period from 2011-12, the ABS reports that 1088 people were killed in Family Violence. [1] In the same period there were 4915 people die from Suicide [2] which equates to almost 5 times the amount of homicide.  This really raises some significant questions about why we consider domestic violence an epidemic and yet we are ignoring the frightening statistics on suicide.

 

Beyond blue estimates that for every person who suicides, there are at least 6 people who remain deeply affected. The economic cost of suicide to our nation would be catastrophic, and of course the emotional turmoil of both the victim and those bereft at their loss is simply devastating.

 

Men comprise of almost 80% of our suicide death toll. Based on the 2013 total suicides of 2540 people this equates to 39 men per week (2016 men die per year) with the average age being 44.5 years. At that age, it is fair to assume he is a father of young children.  [3]

 

The following graph from the ABS shows that over a 10 year period 2002-2012 that the male suicide rates have been consistently high and consistently far more than women and so it would be fair to say that suicide is a gendered problem in Australia. Why are we not talking about this?

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Australia has adopted the position that suicide is a mental health problem and this is something I strongly disagree with. It’s not a mental health problem, it’s a life problem.  Yes, depression is often present in suicidal men, but what leads to the depression?

 

The overwhelming majority of men that I help daily are men who are battling Family Court matters and many of these men tell me of their despair and desperation that has led them to suicidal thoughts at times. The issues facing them are enormous and when they speak out they are treated with disdain by both our Government and the women’s group funded by them.

 

Overwhelmingly, men’s pain is ignored and dismissed as irrelevant.

 

One of the most widely reported emotional conditions associated with suicide is that of despair or hopelessness. I have personally stared at the walls of that very dark pit and I can tell you the world seems very dark and bleak when you can’t imagine a brighter future, or how your existence is going to make things any better.  It’s dark, it’s lonely and it fucking hurts with an unimaginable pain that you just want to stop.

 

A major criticism I hear is that ‘men don’t talk’ and I take great issue with this. Firstly, it is blaming the victim and this is something we never attribute to women. More importantly however, large volumes of men talk to me every day. If the services that our Government are providing are not reaching men, the issue is not with the men it’s with what they are providing for them, or how they are addressing the problem.

 

Australia has two main groups which provide helplines for suicide. Beyondblue and Lifeline. Both of these services provide an invaluable tool for people in crisis however neither of them are specifically for men. While there is recognition that men are the primary victims of suicide, there is there is no male specific suicide prevention services in Australia.

Suicide Prevention Australia reports:

Men experience higher levels of ill health than women, including alcohol and drug misuse, injury, obesity, physical inactivity and physical disease. These are compounded by tendencies to avoid health care until illness becomes severe or life threatening.

Men also tend to have smaller social support systems than women and are less likely to share their personal problems with friends or family. These factors combine to increase the burden of ill health on men including psychological distress.

While I applaud the work and initiatives of Suicide Prevention Australia there seems to be no push from them for available services and support.  I am also extremely disheartened that this topic is so far removed from our conversations in media as if it is unimportant.

Many of the men reading blog this will comment that men are the ‘disposable gender’. This alone should tell you just how men feel they are perceived in our society. You have no right to say ‘men don’t talk’  if you aren’t prepared to listen when they do. If we are at all interested in supporting men, we need to start with addressing the 2500 or so male lives we are set to lose this year to suicide.
Government funded services for men are urgently needed for
  • male specific help lines
  • support for male victims of abuse and violence
  • court support and legal aid for men in family matters
  • homeless and domestic violence shelters for men

If you need help please contact  – Lifeline 13 11 44 or Beyond Blue 1300 22 4636

If you wish to support the work of Jasmin @ Relating To Men, you can do so here Donate Now

 

Image: Flickr – Lisa Brewster

Sources

[1] Australian Institute of Criminology

[2] Australian Bureau of Statistics

[3] Australian Bureau of Statistics

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About the author

Jasmin

Jasmin is a specialist men’s coach who supports men in all aspects of relationships, but specifically those who are going through high conflict separation and divorce. She is also a dedicate advocate for services for men and their children who have been victims of domestic violence and abuse.

Jasmin helps men who are struggling and feeling lost and alone, to move to a place of acceptance and confidence so they can move ahead and live a life consistent with their values and beliefs. She believes strongly in the power of overcoming past hurts through empathy and compassion.

She is a mother of two, author, presenter and coach. She lives in the idyllic coastal town of Merimbula, NSW, Australia.

*All written material on Relating To Men is subject to copyright to the author.