The Stop Male Suicide in New South Wales seminar took place in Sydney on Tuesday 31st May. The event was a great success and our evaluation forms from our first two events are showing that:
- Suicide literacy in attendees increases;
- Suicide prevention confidence increases;
- The proportion of participants who are confident or very confident they could spot a man at risk of suicide increases.
If you’re interested in improving male suicide literacy and suicide prevention confidence then you may want to support our work by pre-ordering a copy of our new book “You Can Stop Male Suicide” at the following link:
And if you want to find out more about the speakers who attended the Stop Male Suicide in NSW seminar and what they had to says, see below for details.
The event was opened by two State politicians who expressed their support for efforts to reduce male suicide in New South Wales:
SCOTT FARLOW MLC
Scott Farlow, MLC, was born and grew up in Sydney’s Inner West and is a graduate from the University of Sydney. Scott was elected to the NSW Legislative Council in March 2015, is the Chair of The Parliamentary Friends of Mental Health and he attended the event on behalf of the NSW Minister for Mental Health, Pru Goward MP.
Tania Mihailuk MP is a lifelong resident of Bankstown and a former Mayor of Bankstown City Council. Tania was elected to Parliament as the State Member for Bankstown in 2011. She is the NSW Opposition’s Shadow Minister for Family and Community Services, Shadow Minister for Social Housing, Shadow Minister for Medical Research and Shadow Minister for Mental Health.
Nic was one of three lived experiences who spoke in the opening session. Nic was representing R U OK? as a Community Ambassador. He spoke of his personal experience of enduring mental illnesses when he was in school and commented on the difficulties with the toughness that Aussie blokes are often expected to exhibit. He is a strong believer in speaking up and sharing.
You can find out more about Nic’s work at the following wesbite:
R U OK? ambassadors are attending Stop Male Suicide events around the country.
The RU OK? campaign says:
“If your gut says something’s not quite right with someone, chances are that they might need a bit of extra support from the people around them. They might be acting a bit differently, seem to have a lot on their plate, or simply aren’t themselves. Don’t ignore those signs but instead take some time to start a conversation.
“One of the great things about asking “are you ok?” is you don’t have to know the answers to a mate’s problems. Nor do you have to be ok yourself. Or feel particularly strong. As long as you feel up to listening, not judging and just talking through stuff you have found useful in the past, you’ve everything it takes to have a meaningful conversation to support a mate in need.”
For more information on how to ask “R U OK? see this link:
Craig Curtis is a Suicide Prevention Trainer with lived experience of suicidal thoughts. In his personal life he has faced the challenge of a serious motorcycle accident in 2004 and the death of his wife in 2013. Having previously volunteered as a Lifeline telephone counsellor, Craig now works in South Western Sydney empowering and supporting people with chronic and persistent mental illness. Craig shared the moving story of he came close to suicide and was saved by a text conversation with a colleague.
Tara Lal is a firefighter and suicide prevention trainer who has managed the psychological wellbeing program in Fire & Rescue NSW. She is currently working with researchers at UNSW and the Black Dog Institute on a program aimed at developing resilience in firefighters. Tara recently published her first book ‘Standing on my Brother’s Shoulders – Making peace with Grief and Suicide’.
According to Tara, the main points she hopes people took away from her contribution were:
- An improved ability to imagine how it feels to be suicidal through the words of my brother.
- The extent and longevity of the ripple effect of suicide.
- How its possible to grow through suicide and use our experiences to make a difference to the lives of others.
Tara says: “It would be great to keep in contact with everyone and continue to work together to help prevent male suicide.”
Glen Poole of the Stop Male Suicide Project delivered a talk on the facts and figures about male suicide in New South Wales. Glen is committed to increasing male suicide literacy at an individual, collective and systemic level as well as building people’s confidence to talk about and prevent male suicide.
You can support this work by pre-ordering a copy of Stop Male Suicides new book (“You Can Stop Male Suicide”) from the link below.
Peter Bell has worked at Charles Sturt University (CSU) for 25 years, with a particular focus on the welfare and pastoral care of students living in halls of residence. There are over 2,200 students living in halls on CSU’s five campuses, and since 2007, Peter has been part of a drive to make the University’s communities, suicide safer.
Pete says “I really enjoyed the day. I listened to some amazing stories, witnessed some great presentations, and met some very passionate people.”
These are the key points that Peter would like people to know:
- Strong and supportive communities are a key element in suicide prevention
- Get educated about suicide prevention and intervention, know the signs
- Ask clearly and directly, “Are you having thoughts of suicide?”, “Are you thinking of killing yourself?”
- Be willing to ask the hard questions, be inquisitive, be nosy.
- The Living Works SafeTALK programme
- For young people, Blended Mental Health First Aid for Tertiary Students
- Headspace, a resource for those aged 15 to 25 with Mental Health Disorders
Pete’s final thought: “We know early intervention is the key. 50% of people developing a Mental Illness will do so by age 18, and 75%, by age 25.”
Pete Nicholls, Sydney Group Leader and Board member of Parents Beyond Breakup (PBB), otherwise better known under it’s old titles of ‘Dads in Distress’ and ‘Mums n Distress’, came to share his insights into reducing suicide rates in separating parents, particular in men / fathers who have lost touch with their children.
PBB operate a peer support model through weekly groups that are free to attend across the country. Each year PBB takes around 6,000 calls on the helpline and about the same again attend the weekly support groups. A recent research effort to identify performance demonstrated that dads turning up at the groups moved from 71% ‘sense of hopelessness’ to just 12% within one week, and more importantly from 47% feeling suicidal to 0% (zero) within one week.
Pete says the way this is achieved is probably best summed up by a quote from a dad who recently attended who said:
“I have ugly emotional scars. I can’t and won’t face someone beautiful. I don’t care how smart they are. How can they understand me, how can their empathy make my shame ok? I need to see other ‘ugly men’, men damaged like me who’ve survived this, who can show me the way. I want someone that I ‘know’ is not judging me, because I’ve lost trust in everything and everyone.”
Pete says: “Sometimes the best qualified experts simply can’t replace another ’emotionally ugly or scarred dad’ who’s been through it, has survived and is willing to guide the new attendee on their journey. PBB works by putting lots of ‘ugly men’ in touch with each other and supporting the ongoing interaction through a well developed and positive infrastructure. PBB shows them the path, shows that it can be walked and then holds their hand along the way.”
To find out more about the work of PBB see:
Carolyn has worked for the suicide prevention charity, MATES in Construction (NSW) for three years, delivering suicide prevention training and case managing over 300 people. Carolyn has a Diploma in Community Services Work and a Bachelor of Social Sciences and is passionate about making a difference for communities through education and supporting people at risk.
MATES in Construction is attending several Stop Male Suicide seminars around the country and their CEO, Jorgen Gullestrup, tells us their main message is simply this:
“Suicide prevention is simple – we can all do it.”
Jorgen contributed a chapter to the following book:
Carolyn says the MATES’ website has a range of helpful resources and videos that will be of interest, see:
DR DAVID JONES
David is an ordained minister with more than 40 years experience in rural, regional and metropolitan churches. He has a doctoral degree from San Francisco Theological Seminary, part of the Graduate Theological Union at the University of California, Berkeley. He is a registered ASIST trainer, providing suicide intervention training for the military in the Canberra region.
David shared some of the findings of the Mental Health in the Australian Defence Force report (2010) which revealed that ADF personnel reported thinking of committing suicide and making a suicide plan at a higher rate than the general population.
You can see the full report here.
Andrew Little is Deputy Executive Director at the National LGBTI Health Alliance. He is a qualified social worker, with eight year’s experience on the frontline at Centrelink and over 25 year’s personal and professional experience working in the HIV sector, both in Australia and UK. More recently he has turned his focus to addressing the health issues facing our diverse LGBTI communities.
Andrew says the following website is where the forthcoming resource currently being developed by the National LGBTI Health Alliance in partnership with beyondblue for Gay men who want to help their friend will be found.
www.wingmen.org.au (not yet active)
In the mean time a major source of support is available through QLife at.
QLife is Australia’s first nationally-oriented counselling and referral service for people who are lesbian, gay, bisexual, trans, and/or intersex (LGBTI). QLife provides nation-wide, early intervention, peer supported telephone and web based services to people of all ages across the full breadth of people’s bodies, genders, relationships, sexualities, and lived experiences.
Encouraging and giving confidence to gay men to talk about their concerns, feelings with their friends is a major first step in breaking down the barriers associated with anxiety and depression and its related related stigma. This is a first great step in helping prevent suicide among gay men.
Remember that LGBTI is not a single community. nor is GBTI. Gay, Bi-sexual, Trans men and intersex men has many similarities but also many differences in terms of sexuality and gender identity.
It is important to remember this when planning services and especially if designing research. It is important to be aware of the differences and to disaggregate the groups when conducting research.
In addition to QLife, Andrew recommends the National LGBTI Health Alliances knowledge hub which stores a large number of resources, reports and information about LGBTI health related issues.
Marilyn Dunn and her colleagues from the Salvation Army in Wollongong talked about some of the ways they are responding to suicide in their community.
Marilyn had recently attendied the 5th annual memorial cricket match for a young man in her community who died by suicide around the age of 21. His school friends, together with family, have gathered each year around the anniversary, to honour his memory and check in with each other, raising awareness around mental health issues.
This year highlights have been edited into a short film, with the intention of interviewing the participants around the impact of the loss of their friend to suicide.
This video was played at the seminar and can be viewed online at Vimeo via this link:
Jane is Coordinator Older People’s Suicide and Depression Prevention. She has an honours degree in psychology and runs “Suicide Prevention for Older People” training and the “Partners in Depression” course. Jane chairs the “Elderly Suicide Prevention Network” and is involved with a variety of Ministry of Health Working Groups.
The key points Jane would like people to remember from her talk are:
- Older men have the highest suicide rates, with less warning, higher lethality, less history of prior attempts, greater prevalence of depression with physical illness and a sense of hopelessness
- Losing an interest in life is not normal for older people
- Ageism can prevent older people getting the help they need
- Sometimes older men will find it hard to talk about their mental health and be more likely to talk about physical illness
- Detecting and responding to depression is an effective way to prevent suicide
- When concerns about suicide arise it is important to address the issues directly with the person and seek additional support.
- The Mental Health Line number is 1800 011 511
- In South Western Sydney there is a campaign to improve people’s wellbeing that is based on a UK one. It puts the evidence into a simple message called “ 5 ways to wellbeing”. The 5 ways are: Connect, Be active, Take Notice, Keep Learning and Give.
- Improving a person’s quality of life is an effective way to prevent suicide. This includes reducing social isolation, loneliness, hopelessness and pain and suffering.
Jane would also like to make people aware of the social determinants of mental health. She says the Melbourne Charter for Promoting Mental Health and Prevention Mental and Behaviours Disorders states that “Mental health is most threatened by poor and unequal living conditions, conflict and violence.”
“Consequently,” says Jane “to reduce suicide we need to ensure people have a decent quality of life – secure housing, purposeful work, and environments that promote people connecting, being active, taking notice, keeping learning and giving. People’s human rights need to be upheld.”
Jane also gave a short presentation on the systems approach to suicide prevention that will be piloted in a select number of areas in New South Wales. For more information:
Sandra is the Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander (ATSI) Case Manager for The Salvation Army’s Inner City Homelessness Men’s Service in Surry Hills, Sydney. Sandra led a discussion about with ATSI men entitled “Who Am I? ( Working with ATSI Men to break the cycle).”
James is a senior social worker with over 8 years’ experience in the mental health sector. James is the Senior Manager, Development and Innovation at On the Line (MensLine Australia, the Suicide Call Back Service, SuicideLine Victoria) and was responsible for pioneering on-demand multi-modal (telephone, online-chat and video) counselling, which is now offered across On the Line’s services including, MensLine Australia and those at risk of suicide on the Suicide Call Back Service, which is available 24/7.
The focus of the James’ breakout room discussion was around how On the Line are using technology to deliver new and innovative professional counselling services, in addressing mental health, family violence, suicide and relationship issues. This included talking points around the provision on-demand online-chat and video counselling services, as well forum and social moderation services and how these are being used in the provision of therapeutic services.
For more information about On the Line or its services, please visit:
Paul McFarlane, Senior Chaplain with NSW Ambulance and Community Ambassador with R U OK? spoke about the importance of engaging people in conversation if you are worried about their mental health or wellbeing. Paul says:
“One of the most protective factors for mental wellbeing is having social connections – close friends and family, and supportive workmates who you can talk with. The more you spend time with people, the quicker you will notice if something is wrong or has changed in their demeanour. The more often you talk with them, the more you will pick up from their conversations that they may be struggling. Young men may seem to have lots of “friends” on their social media accounts but still not have a lot of real life friends they can meet up with for a coffee or feel safe to talk to when they’re struggling. A friend who listens can be a wonderful gift and may just save a life.
“I honestly believe that one of the best ways to reduce the tragic suicide epidemic in Australia is for each one of us to commit to being a better listener and a more caring friend or colleague. If people felt less alone and more supported when they struggle, then they would have a much better chance of getting the help they need and having a healthier and more meaningful life.”
Shayne Connell is a Senior Training Coach with LivingWorks Education and has delivered suicide intervention training in Australia and overseas for 13 years. Shayne is a former Lifeline program manager and Men’s Health Network convenor and currently works for Cancer Council NSW.
Shayne update participants on the suicide prevention training offered by LivingWorks Education. For more information see:
Jasmin Newman supports men who have been victims of domestic violence & abuse and fathers struggling with high conflict separations. Jasmin spoke of some of the issues the men she works with face.
“Men going through relationship breakdown need our support. When they speak, they need to be heard and believed and recognised as being as integral part of their children’s lives. Men generally want to resolve their own issues, but sometimes they need help. I believe the counselling and help line model doesn’t always work for them. I believe we need a new framework which offers support, and to help with their legal matters to lessen the endless frustrations and roadblocks they encounter while trying to maintain connections with their much loved children. I would like to ask everyone reading this to consider what you can do in your local community to help support men, specifically those going through relationship breakdown.”
You can find out more about Jasmin’s work at her website:
Greg Millan of Men’s Health Services is an integral of the Stop Male Suicide project and takes a lead role in organising and promoting out events.
Greg is also Vice Chair of the Australian Men’s Health Forum (AMHF), the peak national body in Australia advocating for the health and social wellbeing outcomes of men and boys.
Greg informed attendees about the work of (AMHF). It is a voluntary organisation made up of representatives of key men’s health organisations in each state.
The AMHF has just released a crowd-funding project with a YouTube video calling for funding to support a research program that will help people deal with and become more literate in addressing male suicide.
Greg is inviting people to watch and circulate this video promoting AMHF’s male suicide prevention initiative:
Greg would also like to make people aware that The AMHF has released a new research paper from the University of South Australia on the state of male health Australia-wide, called “Male Health In Australia – A Call For Action” which found that Government funding for male health research is only 25% of that spent on women’s health research.
You can view the paper at: www.amhf.org.au
ADDITIONAL THANKS TO
- Staff at the City of Sydney who helped with venu hire
- Everyone who attended
- The many people who helped in different ways too many to mention by name
Lifeline: 13 11 14
Suicide Call Back Service: 1300 659 467
MensLine Australia: 1300 78 99 78