Male suicide debate starts Men's Health Connected summit

Winter has arrived and with it the first event of the month-long online Men’s Health Connected summit focusing on male suicide.

Four leaders in the field of male suicide prevention appeared (via zoom) for the Big Debate: How do we make male suicide a national priority?

Dr Zac Seidler, Director of Mental Health Training at Movember, kicked off the discussion acknowledging that male suicide prevention in Australia was clearly not a priority, despite the fact that “we are making extreme headway against a very strong headwind.”

While it was important to “pay attention to the progress we are making”, Dr Seidler emphasised the need to look at male distress pre-suicide.

“Services need a revolution if they are going to respond to men’s distress,” he said.

“It’s hard to back track when somebody is dead. We need to pivot the focus and start to look at the seeds that are starting this whole situation.

“Where are the best roads for intervention? We need to have this conversation when there is a man in distress who calls you. We need to be ahead of the curve, not waiting for the crisis.”

Chris Lockwood, CEO at Mates in Construction, praised the Queensland government, who he said was doing the best job in addressing male suicide prevention.

Working with government closely at MATES, Chris said they consulted widely, sought to build collaboration and called out specifics. “They are having a crack at naming it and owning it,” he said. “Queensland is leading Australia in doing real things for mental health and suicide prevention.”

Gotcha 4 Life CEO Tim Hodgson, said schools and workplaces were best positioned to implement change in male suicide prevention.

“Why aren’t we teaching communication in schools, understanding emotions?” he said.

"The corporate sector has the most resources, the most reach and most ability to impact people.”

The fourth speaker, Pete Shmigel, former CEO off Lifeline, highlighted the need for a collaborative approach among the men’s health sector with more focus on lobbying government in a targeted way.

“We’re not going to get far until we get into professional lobbying and advocacy.”

“Which members of parliament have the greatest number of suicide cases in their electorate? Which of those are in marginal seats? Which are government members? Which of those are mates with the minister for health? How many people with lived experience will go and see their local MP wearing their local high vis?”

Pete said the most effective way to drive change round male suicide is to make those with power see it, touch it and feel it. To make it personal and relevant.

"We lack balls. We are not in the game. That is the real challenge and the opportunity."

TAKE ACTION FOR MEN’S HEALTH

The Men’s Health Connected Online Summit continues throughout June, with different themes for Weeks 1, 2, 3, 4/5.

This week continues with the theme of Male Suicide Prevention:

2 June: Primary Health Networks Male Suicide Prevention Symposium

3 June: Male Suicide – shaping policy and practice

4 June: Working with rural and remote men

5 June: Working with older men – responding to COVID19

6 June: Men’s mental health movement meet-up

Please check your e-mail for a link to activate your account.