Budget misses men at risk say charity bosses

Yesterday’s Federal Budget did not address the needs of those most at-risk of suicide, including men, according to Suicide Prevention Australia (SPA), the peak body for the suicide prevention sector.

Men still account for 3 in 4 suicides in Australia, but research by the Australian Men’s Health Forum (AMHF) has found that up to 4 in 5 beneficiaries of taxpayer-funded prevention programs are women.

The Government says it has invested nearly $3 billion in support of its National Mental Health and Suicide Prevention Plan, including $344.7 million for suicide prevention.

While SPA has welcomed this investment, it says the budget “misses a number of key priorities and further investment is needed at this critical time”. In particular, the Budget “does not address important priorities for those most at-risk, men, LGBTIQ+ and Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander communities”, it says.

Parents Beyond Breakup (PBB) – a member organisation of both AMHF and SPA which runs support services for “Dads In Distress”, has echoed SPA’s concern that the budget is a missed opportunity to target men.

PBB CEO Gillian Hunt said: “We cannot lose focus on those most vulnerable to suicide. Now is not the time to put the brakes on when increased funding is sorely needed.”

“The past few years have brought extreme and increasing challenges to communities. We see this first-hand with the people we support. At the peak of the lockdowns, we experienced a 30% increase in callers to our Helpline. We continue to experience our highest call volumes on record and climbing, with no signs of slowing down.”

More broadly, a brief analysis of the Budget by AMHF found that the $2.1 billion Women’s Budget allocated $333 million “to strengthen health services available to women and girls…as part of the National Women’s Health Strategy 2020–2030”.

In contrast, there appears to be no mention of the National Men’s Health Strategy 2020–2030 in the Budget with just $1 million allocated to “improve long term health outcomes for all Australian men and boys”.

Similarly, in 2021, the Government announced a $3.4 billion Women’s Budget, which included an allocation of $535.8m to focus on the 5 priority areas identified in the National Women’s Health Strategy. In comparison, the 2021 Budget did not specifically target funding at the 5 priority areas outlined in the National Men’s Health Strategy.

According to previous research by AMHF, 78% of men and 80% of women say the Government should spend more on programs that support men.

Glen Poole, CEO of AMHF said:

“We fully support funding being allocated to strengthen women and girls’ health, but the current practice of funding women’s health to the exclusion of men’s health, falls short of the ‘fair share’ approach to Government funding that most Australians want and expect.

"Men account for 2 in 3 preventable deaths; 3 in 4 suicides and 4 in 5 premature heart deaths. It appears that this year’s Budget was another missed opportunity to invest in improving the lives and health of men and boys in Australia.”

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