The following article is printed in the Mercury today.
The recent announcement by the Federal Government of $64M funding for suicide prevention is a missed opportunity to address male suicide. Six of the eight people who tragically die by suicide everyday in Australia are men. We won’t see a significant reduction in suicide rates, let alone approach the Federal Government’s goal of zero suicides, until we get serious about a focus on male suicide.
In 2019, the Government appointed National Suicide Prevention Advisor, Christine Morgan. Initial advice points to: “…the need to use the knowledge of lived experience, to intervene early, focus on specific at-risk groups, strengthen families and communities, and ensure that all government services--not just health services--are working to reduce suicide.”
The Federal Government is responding with a welcome change in the focus of suicide prevention awayfrom medical models towards approaches that are informed by people’s lived experience. However, the funding announced in January primarily targets postvention services, which have a focus on supporting people who have attempted suicide, or have been affected by the suicide of someone close to them. Analysis by the Australian Men’s Health Forum shows that postvention services, as they are currently delivered, tend to reach more women.
Reducing suicide, suicidal behaviours and thoughts, and the direct impacts these have on people who are at risk of suicide, and their families and friends, is always a good thing. However, as is the case with any Government project, funds are limited, which means decisions have to be made, and priorities chosen. Evidence-based aproaches are vital, and the evidence shows we’re not reaching men.
The terrible statistics about male suicide have been the same for decades. In recent years, advocates like Glen Poole of Stop Male Suicide, the Australian Men’s Health Forum, Men’s Health Information and Resources Centre, and the Australian Institute of Male Health Studies, have been advocating for and providing evidence about effective approaches to take action on male suicide.
We know that over 50% of male suicides occur in the context of relationship breakdown, employment challenges, of financial difficulty, and issues of drug and alcohol addiction. If we’re serious about suicide prevention, we need to engage men when they are experiencing these challenging life circumstances, before a suicide attempt happens, because most male suicides occur at the first attempt.
In our valuable and important efforts to listen to those left behind by the suicide of a loved one, or those who have attempted suicide themselves, is there a risk of not sufficiently hearing the voices of our most significant at-risk group–men–because they have already gone?
The extension of the Suicide Prevention Trial is a good initiative. Men’s Resources Tasmania (MRT) has successfully advocated for a focus on men through the Tasmanian trial sites across the north of the state with various training, workshops and events occurring in the last two years to ensure services and workplaces address male suicide risk.
MRT is seeking partnerships and funding to connect with men across the state to better understand their needs and the supports that would meet those needs.
Excecutive Officer - MRT