It’s time we acknowledged the crisis in men’s mental health

The graph shows the rates of suicide by gender in specific age groups. Here is the challenge: Make a one sentence summary of what you see.

It is so glaringly, “in your face” obvious: the thing that stands out is the massive difference in suicide rates between men and women. Men are suiciding at many times the rate for women and the rate is increasing, yet this result is not getting much prominence in the media.  It is almost taboo to focus on the figures showing that this is a huge issue for men.  We look at bits of the data that give some sort of edge to women: for example, that for young women, the 15 – 19 age group has the most suicides and this is not the case for men, although in that age group men still have a higher rate than women.  This analysis is true, but deflects attention from the significant statistic that at every age men are suiciding at far greater rates than women.

The Australian Bureau of Statistics has just published its latest data on causes of death in Australia, generating many comments and much discussion about mental health and suicides.  Almost no one focusses on the obvious data herewe need to address more of our resources towards men. The statements generally draw attention to the level of suicides, offer some “vanilla” suggestions and call for more money. But they are not addressing the real issue: we must target men specifically and research why men are feeling that their lives are not important, why life is just too hard and suicide is a way out.

It doesn’t help that it is mainly women who are running the “help” organisations most of the media commentary is also by women.  This a case where we need more councillors who are men, not even equal numbers but proportionate to the data. 

Organisations like Lifeline, Beyond Blue and Black Dog must advocate on behalf of men and push for more funding for research into the reasons for these appalling statistics among men.  It is not enough to make statements such as “In Australia, suicide is the leading cause of death for males and females aged between 15 and 44” as Beyond Blue does on its website, or “youth suicide is the leading cause of death in young people aged 15-24 years (ABS, 2012)” as the Black Dog website states.  Lifeline is showing the way when it says that “Men are four times more likely to die by suicide than women and ABS data (2012) shows more people die from suicide than road deaths.”  Let us lobby for support for both women and men, but let’s not pretend that the issue is gender neutral.

There are many links to sites that are trying to provide help (eg https://www.lifeline.org.au/get-help/topics/preventing-suicide) but until we really address the issue, and find out what it is about society in general, and men in particular, that is driving these suicides, we are not really serious about finding a solution. It is World Mental Health Day on October 10th and Mental Health Week in Queensland and other States in Australia from 9th to 15th of October, so let’s make this a BIG issue  on Social Media and the Press and Mainstream media.

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