Social isolation from COVID19 (coronavirus) needs to be carefully managed to avoid an increase in male suicide deaths, Australia’s peak body for men’s health has warned.
The three groups of men at particular risk are older men in poor health, men who lose their jobs and livelihood and men with fewer social connections, including dads separated from their children.
Glen Poole, CEO of the Australian Men’s Health Forum said:
“We support the Government’s decisive action to save as many lives as we can from coronavirus and this needs to be balanced with innovative action to save more lives from suicides linked to isolation and financial distress in the coming months.
“Our immediate concern is for older men who have a higher rate of suicide than any other age group. Support services like men’s sheds are closing their doors and older men are becoming more isolated in the process.”
Poole said increased social isolation is a risk factor for suicide in men of all ages. “Research shows men are less likely to have strong social networks than women, though this has been changing steadily with hundreds of local men’s groups launching in recent years,” he said. “Most of these groups have had to close in the past fortnight because of coronavirus, leaving men at risk of suicide more socially isolated.”
One of the highest risk groups in terms of social isolation and access to services is dads separated from their children, says AMHF. With support groups for dads playing an important role in keeping men at risk of suicide alive.
Poole said “Men’s services across the country are struggling to respond to this crisis. We are seeing some extraordinary innovation. Men’s Sheds are co-operating internationally to run sheds online; support services like Dads In Distress are developing virtual groups and men’s mental health projects like Mr Perfect are using Facebook and other social media platforms to keep men connected.
“What we need right now is Government support to help us get the men’s health sector online and working together to save men’s lives today.”
The warning comes on the same day that a new report from Suicide Prevention Australia – Turning the Tide - calls on Government to develop a national male suicide prevention strategy and target more funding at male suicide prevention.
- The Australian Men’s Health Forum is the peak body for people working to improve the lives and health of men and boys in Australia. It is funded by the Federal Government.
- According to the latest ABS statistics, suicide killed 3,046 people in Australia in 2018. Men accounted for 2,320 (76.2%) of these suicides while 726 suicides were female (23.8%).
- Men over 85 are seven times more likely to take their own lives than women of the same age. Australian research has also found that 4 out of 5 suicides in men 65 and over are linked to physical health conditions.
- Australian research also shows that male suicides are 12 times more likely to be linked to financial issues than female suicide.
- Glen Poole is a member of the Expert Advisory Group established by the Federal Government's new National Suicide Prevention Advisor Christine Morgan.
- University of Sydney’s Brain and Mind Centre has forecast a significant surge in suicides as a result of the COVID-19 pandemic.