Many conventional suicide prevention programs are failing to address the high rate of male suicide, a new study by Australia's top men's health agency reveals. The Australian Men's Health Forum is calling for the implementation of male-specific suicide awareness and prevention programs it claims will be far more effective in dealing with a social scourge that claims six male lives each day.
A national drive to halve suicide in Australia is failing to address the fact that three out of four people who take their own lives are men, say men’s health experts.
Suicide kills six men a day in Australia, is the leading killer of men and boys under 45 and claims more lives than road traffic accidents. But while men account for 75.7% of all suicides, the majority of time, money and energy invested in researching and preventing suicide fails to target malesuicide, according to a new research paper published by the Australian Men’s Health Forum (AMHF).
According to Julian Krieg, President of AMHF, current approaches to suicide prevention are more effective at preventing female suicide than male suicide.
“Suicide is preventable, but most approaches to suicide prevention take a female-friendly approach that is better suited to helping women. Our paper outlines the key steps that Governments need to take to ensure that men at risk of suicide can access help and support from male-friendly suicide prevention services,” Mr Krieg says.
“The men’s health and wellbeing sector in Australia has a wealth of experience and expertise that takes a strengths-based, male-friendly approach to tackling the social issues that men and boys face.
“In the majority of cases, male suicide is not a mental health issue but a response to situational distress and most commonly associated with relationship issues and work-related problems. What our experience shows, is that men respond positively to practical, self-directed, problem-solving approaches that deal with the issues that are causing them distress," Mr Krieg says.
Glen Poole, founder of the Stop Male Suicide Project and one of the lead authors of the paper said:
“Most approaches to suicide prevention use a ‘deficit model’ that sees men as the problem and argues that if only men behaved more like women, they’d open up, get help and talk about their feelings.
"What men’s health experts are telling us is that this ‘inside-out’, feelings-based approach to suicide prevention is not compatible with the way most men deal with their problems. Male-friendly approaches to suicide prevention generally recognise that men are less likely to actually report having suicidal thoughts and so identify men at risk from the ‘outside in’.
"One way this can be achieved is by targeting support services at men who are experiencing the situational distressors that are known to increase their risk of suicide. These include issues with relationships, work, money - which are often compounded by alcohol and substance abuse.”
According to the AMHF research paper, released today, each suicide is estimated to cost the Australian economy $6million (1). Based on this figure, male suicide costs the economy an estimated $13.75billion a year.
Closing the gender suicide gap and reducing the number of male suicides to the same level as female suicide, would save the lives of more than 1500 Australian men a year and save the economy an estimated $9.3billion annually.
The three key reasons why current approaches to suicide prevention are failing to close this gender suicide gap, the report says, are that:
- They position suicide as a mental health issue
- They favour female-friendly approaches to suicide prevention
- They tend to problematise men and masculinity
The report, which is available to view at the AMHF website (www.amhf.org.au), outlines a series of 10 recommendations to effectively help prevent male suicide in Australia.
(1) The 2010 Breaking The Silence Report from Lifeline Australia and its partners, estimated that the value of each individual life lost to suicide is $6 million. For more information see: The Economic Cost of Male Suicide.