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Is it time Tasmania had a male suicide prevention plan?

The Department of Health in Tasmania has begun consultations on the development of the next Tasmanian Suicide Prevention Strategy, which will set out its priorities for preventing suicide over the next five years.

In 2020, Tasmania recorded the highest rate of male suicide in Australia, overtaking the Northern Territory for the first time.
With this in mind, the Australian Men’s Health Forum has made a submission to the public consultation, inviting the Tasmanian Government to consider developing a specific Male Suicide Prevention Action Plan, as part of its next Suicide Prevention Strategy.

Why focus on male suicide?
Suicide killed 87 people in Tasmania in 2020. There were 71 male and 16 female suicides. In total 82.6% of suicides were male.
The number of male suicides in Tasmania has risen by 40% in the past decade and the rate of male suicide is nearly 40% higher than the national average.

The 2021 Report to the Tasmanian Government on Suicide in Tasmania found that 90% of men who die by suicide have experienced at least one interpersonal and/or family stressor prior to their death. These include separation from partner; conflict with partner, family member or associate; death of partner, family member or associate; and violence (as victim or perpetrator) involving partner or family
member.

In addition, 93% of men who died by suicide experienced at least one contextual or situational stressor including substance abuse; work issues; social and physical isolation; financial issues; legal issues; bullying; and exposure to the suicide of a family member, friend, peer or acquaintance.

Male suicide is different
Male suicide is different from female suicide in a number of important ways that can help governments to target suicide prevention initiatives more effectively. For example, men in Tasmania account for:

1. 82.6% of all suicides
2. 76.7% of suicides linked to social or physical isolation
3. 77% of suicides linked to relationship separation
4. 77.4% of suicides linked to financial issues
5. 81.5% of suicides linked to substance misuse
6. 82.9% of work-related suicides
7. 84.8% of suicides linked to legal issues
8. 93% of suicides involving firearms

In contrast, suicide in Tasmanian women is more likely to be linked to mental health issues, with female suicides being:

9. 20% more likely to be linked to mood disorders like depression than male suicide
10. 60% more likely to be linked to neurotic disorders like anxiety than male suicide

Following the expert’s advice
In 2021, the PM’s National Suicide Prevention advisor, Christine Morgan, made some key recommendations to State and Territory governments. In particular:

1. State Governments should ensure suicide prevention planning and funding targets high risk populations including men
2. State Governments should review existing services and publish a report outlining how accessible these services are to men
3. State Governments should identify a list of priority actions they will take to tackle male suicide

Furthermore, research by the Australian Men’s Health Forum has found that while 4 in 5 suicides in Tasmania are male, up to 4 in 5 people supported by Government-funded suicide prevention services are female.

While we do not wish to see any reduction in the number of women accessing and receiving support, this stark imbalance needs to be addressed if we are to tackle the fact that over 80% of people who die by suicide in Tasmania are men.

What could a Men’s Action Plan include?
Some of the key actions that could be included in a Male Suicide Prevention Action Plan are:
1. An audit of existing funded services to identify how effective they are at reaching men at
risk of suicide
2. Support for men with lived experience to contribute to suicide prevention in Tasmania on
an ongoing basis
3. Funding for grassroots projects, including peer-support projects run by men and for men
4. Training for professionals and volunteers on working with men at risk of suicide
5. Funding for initiatives that respond to the known risk factors for male suicide, including relationship issues, financial issues and work-related issues.

The Tasmanian Suicide Prevention Strategy should also identify the potential touch-points where men at risk of suicide are already coming into contact with services. We know that the majority of Tasmanian men who die from suicide have sought help and/or been in contact with services. For example:

  • 89% have seen a community service provider

  • 80% have seen a physical health provider

  • Nearly two-thirds (62%) had received mental health treatment

  • Half (50%) have had contact with legal services (e.g. police or courts)

  • 40% have been in contact with Centrelink

    Furthermore, in the 6 weeks prior to their death:
  • Nearly half (46%) had received mental health treatment

  • Nearly half (41%) had been seen by their GP

  • A quarter (23%) has been in contact with legal services (e.g. police or courts)

  • 1 in 10 (10%) has been treated for mental health issues at an emergency department.

What happens next?
The Australian Men’s Health Forum will work alongside men’s organisations in Tasmania, such as Men’s Resources Tasmania, to make the case for a stronger focus on male suicide in the next Tasmanian Suicide Prevention Strategy. As the Tasmanian Government acknowledges, each life lost to suicide is a tragedy felt deeply by individuals, families, friends, and communities. By placing a stronger focus on preventing male suicide over the next 5 years, together we can work to reduce the number of people in Tasmania who are impacted by suicide every year. If you’re based in Tasmania and want to support the push for a Tasmanian Male Suicide Prevention Action Plan, you can contact us on [email protected].

TAKE ACTION FOR MEN'S HEALTH
Get Involved: Sign up for our Men’s Health Policy and Advocacy newsletter
Read: The Case for a National Male Suicide Prevention Strategy (AMHF report)
Read: The Charter for Men’s Mental Health (AMHF report)
Download: Male Suicide Prevention Principles 2022 (Suicide Prevention Australia)
Download: The Report to the Tasmanian Government on Suicide in Tasmania (2021) Male Suicide Prevention Principles, Suicide Prevention Australia (January 2022)

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