Suicide continues to be one of the top 10 causes of death amongst men, with suicide prevention campaigners using a Canberra conference to call for more “male friendly” health services to encourage men to seek help.
Suicide is the 10th leading cause of male death according to the most recent ABS data which found three-quarters of people who died by suicide were male.
Of the 2535 suicide deaths in Australia in 2012, 1901 were men and 634 were women, which equates to almost seven suicide deaths a day.
Men are three times more likely to commit suicide – and three times less likely to seek help – than women, the 2014 Men’s Health and Suicide Prevention Conference in Canberra was told on Wednesday.
Keynote speaker Professor John MacDonald, director of Men’s Health Information and Resource Centre at the University of Western Sydney, said figures showed five men and one woman a day took their own life.
“That hasn’t changed and it should be a trigger to get people thinking about what’s happening here, as a society about what are we not doing which would keep boys and men in life? That hasn’t changed in the 20 years I’ve been doing this,” he said.
He said there needed to be more of a focus on prevention and “what keeps people alive” and what society was doing to value people.
Professor MacDonald said there was still much work to be done to destigmatise mental health and illness amongst men.
“The National Male Health Policy says we should have male-friendly health services which I think is a turnaround. Instead of saying men ‘don’t go to the doctor’, we’re saying ‘what are doctors doing to reach out to men’,” he said.
Menslink chief executive Martin Fisk said the conference was about increasing men’s awareness of mental health issues and suicide and how organisations could assist men to seek help.
“I think there is a lack of dedicated services for men. There’s only a few of us here in Canberra but what we’re also trying to do is get services that work with both men and women to be more male-friendly – whether that’s a GP, whether that’s a community centre or a drop-in centre for youth. All of those things we’re trying to make a little more male-friendly so men can come in and feel comfortable enough to put up their hand and ask for help.”
Assembly member Chris Bourke said suicide rates in Australia had reached a 10-year peak and was the leading cause of death for Australians aged 15 to 44.
“There is still considerable stigma attached to suicide and it’s unfortunate that help-seeking behaviour can be viewed as incongruent with the traditional male gender role. Encouraging men to seek help early is an important aspect of addressing this issue in Canberra and also more broadly across Australia,” he said.
Last week’s ACT budget saw an $8.9 million commitment for mental health care, which included $2.1 million to improve suicide prevention services.
This article first appeared on ‘Canberra Times’ on 11 June 2014.