The Australian Bureau of Statistics has today released the tragic news of a dramatic 13% increase in suicide over the 2014 period. For men, this meant a total of 2160 deaths, an additional 241 on the previous year. This now presents as 41.5 men per week.
On average, FORTY ONE men die each week in Australia, and yet no one is talking about the elephant in the room!
This image demonstrates the dramatic spike in male suicide between 2013 and 2014 and a frightening and continual trend since 2005.
Jaimes Walch left this comment on Lifeline Australia’s Facebook page today. It resonated with me powerfully because I know how precariously close Jaimes came to being a statistic last year.
I wish this was not true, it is and it’s only getting worse. I saw the “tradie takes his life every second day” story and I have seen other stories . The only story I have not seen is one on why men like me, just like me, are doing this.
The only story I want to see is one where action is taken, I want to read about the help available for men, I want to SEE the help for men. And yes real, hands on help. I want to see a story on the truth. I want to see actual data on the life circumstances surrounding this far too regular tragedy.
Why does it happen that anytime anyone mentions the Family Law Court or Child Support Agency and suicide in the same sentence the room suddenly appears empty, and there is just me and biggest elephant you refuse to see left alone.
It’s time to do something about it.
Earlier this year I was privileged to meet Jaimes’ daughter who he fought so mightily for in family court. I couldn’t help but marvel at the loving relationship between a father who dotes on his daughter, and a daughter who idolises every single move her father makes. This is a relationship that was almost prevented from being.
Why do good men have to fight so hard for their right to be a father? And importantly, why are we not talking about the fight of their lives, which so often results in feelings of suicide.
What I know from listening to thousands of fathers who have been suicidal is that the most common things they are fighting to survive are present in the systems and structures which should be working with them, not against them. Most notably, these are
- Family court
- Child support agencies
- Family violence
- Child protective services
And of course, the financial ruin, homelessness and helplessness they feel when everything is taken away from them.
While these are by no means impacting on all men who suicide, my experience says they pertain to a considerable percentage who become suicidal.
I believe that there are gross assumptions about men and masculinity which results in generating the wrong research. For instance in 2012, Psychology Australia made the assertion that men are more insensitive to pain when they surmised that men have
fearlessness about death and physical pain insensitivity. Higher acquired capability for suicide among men than women makes it more likely that men will kill themselves when suicide is being considered.
And yet the men I talk to are experiencing extraordinarily high levels of pain fighting for their rights to be fathers to their children. The vast majority of men are not insensitive to pain, they in enormous pain and it’s a pain that is ignored and dismissed. The men I see have an extremely high tolerance for surviving overwhelming burdens but they are far from in sensitive to it’s impact.
If we keep pushing them to the edge through systems that are set for them to fail as men and fathers, then the pain of death becomes less than the pain of surviving.
This same article went on to say
men have a greater tendency to not recognise or respond to their own negative emotions or distress, which may result in more chronic and severe emotional responses to adverse life events (Goldney et al., 2002). Men are less inclined to communicate feelings of despair or hopelessness, and are more likely to present a stoic attitude towards misfortune
And yet men frequently tell me that their pain is ignored and their pleas for help refused or denied as valid. This applies to help lines, police, and the various agencies who are meant to support families. Men ARE talking, but no one is prepared to listen.
Male youths are also at high risk of suicide and it leads me to question the impact of fatherlessness on children who have been alienated from a loving parent. With such a high prevalence of single mothers why do we have no available data on the impact of raising children without a father?
Of course, we must also respect the high number of suicides of men in indigenous populations. We are failing these men too.
Beyond Blue is the organisation charged with most of our suicide research. While I don’t doubt the efficacy of the good work they do, looking on their list of studies about men I can not find a single research article which pertains to men’s experiences with family court matters.
Much of what we do provide in services is delivered in a feminine framework. The concept of calling for help when in crisis is a female one, which is not always relevant to men. If we could address the root cause of anxiety and depression in men, particularly fathers, in a practical manner, I believe we could start to make a positive difference.
There are many women and some men who are scathing of the concept of supporting men in this manner. They claim that men need to ‘own their problems’ and ‘take responsibility’. This isn’t about denial, this isn’t about not being responsible. These are men who every day wake up to the horror story of their lives, and every day they must face a battle that would undo Goliath.
Lifeline: 13 11 14
Suicide Call Back Service – 1300 659 467
Kids Helpline (for young people aged 5 to 25 years): 1800 55 1800
All donations gratefully received.