Taking a situational approach to male suicide

With the rapid escalation of unemployment flowing out of the COVID-19 crisis, the Men’s Health Information and Resource Centre at the Western Sydney University is reinforcing a situational approach to tackling male suicide.

Project Officer Shravankumar Guntuku and director Dr Neil Hall say the pandemic is pushing many men (and women) into unemployment and social isolation, major risks for suicide.

“Temporary income support from government or emergency crisis support from helplines such as Beyond Blue or Lifeline may not address these issues, leaving the space for solutions such as the Situational Approach to Suicide Prevention, the focus of Men’s Health Information and Resource Centre at Western Sydney University,” they write in the Mercury. 

“As Christine Morgan, the chief executive of the National Mental Health Commission and national suicide prevention adviser to the Prime Minister says, addressing risk factors such as unemployment, homelessness, food security and isolation is the only way to reduce suicides in Australia.”

Guntuku and Hall quote Bankwest Curtin Economic Centre predictions that more than one million Australians could be out of work in the next 12 months, with those most vulnerable coming from hard-hit industries like hospitality, entertainment, tourism, transport and construction.

“It is clear that many people in the lower income population cannot protect themselves by working from home.”

Casual workers may face homelessness in the coming months, as businesses collapse, and services such as taxi driving, have next to no uptake due to lockdown restrictions.

“These staggering figures are reminiscent of the Great Depression and many are panicking in isolation, which can lead to suicide ideation without a targeted support.”

Economic security is held as a social determinant of health, a ‘life situation’ that MHIRC has focused on for the past 20 years alongside other key social determinants for suicide.

“This approach focuses on broader risk factors rather than medicalising the accumulated stress of people in crisis. It opens the doors for service providers to work together to reduce the burden on mental health services alone in a targeted and cost-effective way.

“For example, The Shed in Mt Druitt in NSW has been successful in reducing suicides in the local community by addressing the needs of the local Aboriginal men in crisis with issues such as unemployment, relationship breakdown, family law and other risk factors.”

The opinion piece - Shravankumar Guntuku and Neil Hall Talking Point: Men in the firing line as jobs tumble – was published in the Mercury newspaper accessible to subscribers only. 

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Read: One million Australians to lose their jobs by November (Sydney Morning Herald) 

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