On World Suicide Prevention Day 2020, AMHF, the peak body for men’s health, published a report calling for a National Male Suicide Prevention Strategy.
We are not alone in asking the Government to think differently about how it tackles suicide prevention as it seeks to achieve a zero suicide goal.
According to Professor Jane Pirkis, Director of the Centre for Mental Health at the University of Melbourne, preventing male suicide would go further than any other approach to achieving this goal.
The Prime Minister’s National Suicide Advisor, Christine Morgan, has advised Government that men are one of the groups “known to be more vulnerable to suicide and providing effective approaches to suicide prevention for them is a priority”.
And the national peak body for the suicide prevention sector, Suicide Prevention Australia, has called for the development of a “male suicide prevention strategy as a core stream within the national suicide prevention strategy, with funding and accountability attached to measures.”
What actions can we take now to prevent male suicide? Here’s our top 5:
1. Work differently for men
Apply a gender lens to the work Government is funding and begin to identify which initiatives are effective at reaching men. A National Plan to Prevent Male Suicide would target resources at the groups of men at greatest risk, give more men a hand to get involved in male suicide prevention, work to make existing services more male-friendly; support services designed with men in mind and allocate an annual fund to drive down the rates of male suicide.
2. Help men at risk
Invest in male-friendly initiatives that respond to some of the life crises that are known to put men at risk of suicide such as relationship breakdowns, job loss, money issues, legal problems and alcohol and substance abuse. Focus on the nine priority groups listed in the National Men’s Health Strategy including men who are social disadvantaged, rural and remote men, socially isolated men, veterans, Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander males and people with diverse bodies, sexualities and genders.
3. Get men involved
For too long, women have shouldered the burden of working to prevent male suicide. The time has come to give more men a hand to step up and get involved in male suicide prevention. This could mean setting targets to increase the number of men studying or working as psychologists, mental health nurses, peer support workers and psychosocial support workers. It could also involve training more men as lived experience workers and giving more men suicide prevention training. There is also a great opportunity to put funding into community-based peer support initiatives that are run by men for men. One example of this is the men’s shed movement started in Australia many years ago. The recent emergence of community-led men’s mental health groups should be invested in to help build sustainable, male-friendly support networks.
4. Support services for men
If we want to prevent male suicide, we need to ensure more of the support services we fund are working for men. This means supporting providers to build their capacity to deliver male-friendly services. It also means creating greater transparency by encouraging services that aren’t as effective as engaging with men to set targets and report on their progress. At a minimum, suicide prevention initiatives offering a suicide prevention service that is available to men and women, should be working to ensure at least 50% of its clients are male, except for special circumstances where the at-risk population being targeted is known to be mostly female.
5. Fund male suicide prevention
For too long the majority of suicide prevention funding has gone to services that are more effective at helping women. The Government invests $5 billion a year into mental health services. We do not propose taking any funding away from women at risk of suicide. We are asking for suicide prevention funding to be allocated in an equitable way that reflects the fact that 3 in 4 suicides are male. The time has come to create an annual male suicide prevention fund to support the growth of male-friendly support services that are set up to work with groups of men who are at greatest risk of suicide.
FURTHER READING ABOUT MALE SUICIDE IN AUSTRALIA