In the run up to our recent Stop Male Suicide in Tasmania seminar, we were invited onto ABC Radio Hobart to talk about the event and the issue.
The following transcript captures the conversation between presenter Ryk Goddard; Glen Poole of the Stop Male Suicide project and Jonathan Bedloe of the Men’s Resources Tasmania, who were our key partner in terms of making the seminar happen.
You can hear the interview on the ABC Hobart website (while it’s still available) by forwarding to the one hour and fifty minutes mark
RYK: Glen Poole is in town and Jonathan Bedloe are having a gathering today on the Eastern Shore to talk about how you can stop male suicide. G’day!
GLEN: Hey Rick
RYK: Every time I hear that “Stop Male Suicide” and there’s the book Stop Male Suicide, I think who’s that putting the responsibility on and is that too much to ask?
It’s….the responsibility is on all us, we think, so….six men a day die of suicide in Australia and six men a month in Tasmania and suicide is preventable, so we can and we must do more. And I think there is a tendency to say well suicide happens because “men don’t talk” or “men don’t get help”….that is putting the responsibility on individual men in deep, deep distress and what we need to say is “what can we as a community do to stop male suicide?”, because we can all do more.
RYK: Yesterday was the International Day of Happiness and there was a longitudinal study, 75 years long, done by Harvard and it found that if you are content with your relationships in your 50s, you’ll have much better health outcomes in your 80s, but that is a time of life that is very vulnerable for men, is it middle-aged men that are most at risk?
JONATHAN: Look…..it’s men across the spectrum in varying ways, but young men in particular have very high rate, older men over 85 as well, but of course the number of men over 85 is much smaller than the rest of the population, so although it’s a high rate……
RYK: Over 85?
JONATHAN: Yeah, yeah, very much so, men are experiencing isolation, potentially the loss of lots of things their work, their partner possibly, their autonomy, those sorts of things, so it figures high. But yes, in particularly young men and then middle-aged men as you’re saying, 35-55 roughly, it’s the leading cause of death.
RYK: Male identity has been traditionally based on work, is this a structure that is just not serving us anymore, particularly because work has become casualised?
GLEN: That’s a really interesting question, because on one level work is a protective factor, so we know that people who don’t have work for any reason whether that’s unemployment, or maybe being a student or being retired, are generally at higher risk of suicide than those in work and then there’s a whole host of data now on the different professions and how much more likely you are to die of suicide if your are in a particular profession. So, like working in labouring industry, in trades, that kind of stuff, really high rate of suicide and then there’s what you point to, the uncertainty.
So it doesn’t matter what job you’re in, but if your work is uncertain or your work is particularly stressful, then the risk of suicide goes up.
Now what’s interesting is of course, not having a job or not having enough money, or facing redundancy, or facing bullying or stress at work, impacts men and women, but we know that work problems…..work is a much bigger part of men’s identity, than women’s identity, generally, so when things go wrong at work, it does seem to impact men much more profoundly than it impacts women
RYK: Does that mean then that we need to look at the last, sort of, 20 years of government policy that’s casualised the workforce and say that that policy is partly responsible for this situation of fragility ….and do you change the policies or do you need to say men you need to build more robust identities that aren’t just based on work?
JONATHAN: Yeah, look I think it’s a little bit of both but absolutely, the policy end of things and the approach we take in workplaces and through industry and through those other parts of life, our financial world, we need to recognize that they play such a role and that we can have policies, that if a company is going to lose some people is going to restructure then suicide prevention is very much a factor in what they need to do to prepare those men for their future life
RYK: Glen you’re nodding emphatically
GLEN: Yeah, totally….so, we tend to look at the weaknesses, the deficits, you know what men don’t do or what the government doesn’t do and that’s really important because we need to understand what we need to change. We also need to look at what strengths we have, what strengths we have as men and what strengths we have as cultures and societies.
Workplaces are fantastic places to reach men and connect with men, there’s some brilliant projects out there. The Stop Male Suicide project isn’t just about having a whinge or complaining about this issue, it’s about highlighting what is working, bringing together people who are doing really good work already and learning form each other. So today’s gathering in Howrah is about bringing together some great organisations in Tasmania, who are taking action to stop male suicide on a daily basis.
So the workplace is a great place to reach guys; sports clubs are great place to reach guys, families and communities, we all live in families and communities so there’s so we can all play a role in reaching out and connecting too…..and we’ve got to have this conversation. There’s a big taboo around suicide still, but it is preventable, you can spot a man a risk, you can talk to each other about suicide. Only through conversation can we solve this problem, because 6 guys in Australia are taking their own lives and those suicides are preventable and we can only stop it if we actually draw on that strength of Australia, the mateship.
You know, we talk about guys not getting help, but guys are brilliant at giving help, right, guys want to give help, so we need to show men in particular, what it is you can do for your mates and rather than saying “individual men you need to change”, no, we collectively need to change and learn about this issue and let go of the taboo and start talking about it.
RYK: The taboo’s a big of the problem isn’t it?
GLEN: Massive, massive
RYK: To say that there’s shame associated to say that you know someone who died by suicide…
RYK: …and starting to talk about it as a normal cause of death…
RYK: …can make a big difference as well in terms of positivity. If you can’t get to today’s forum, which is 9 to 4 at Howrah Recreation Centre, where else can people hear more from you
GLEN: Sure so look, just go on the internet and search for Stop Male Suicide, search for Men’s Resources Tasmania in Tasmania. We’ve got a training day in Ross in April and this project is nationwide and we’ll be back in Tasmania August and October and we’re looking for people to host talks about this at a community level or in a business of wherever. So find us online and get in touch because we want to help you have this conversation
RYK: Thanks for coming in, also Men’s Resources Tasmania
JONATHAN: Thanks Ryk.
RYK: You’re the local source that’s Jonathan Bedloe.