The Stop Male Suicide in Tasmania seminar took place in Howrah, Hobart on Tuesday 21st March 2017.
The gathering acknowledged and paid respect to the Tasmanian Aboriginal Community as the traditional and original owners, and continuing custodians of the land where we met and acknowledged the Elders, past and present.
Around 50 people registered for the event representing a broad range of organisations working across Tasmania. The event was made possible thanks to the generous support of Men’s Resources Tasmania and Clarence City Council which provided a venue for the day.
The event generated some interest from local media, notably ABC Hobart. You can read about our interview with presenter Ryk Goddard and Jonathan Bedloe of Men’s Resources Tasmania here.
The Stop Male Suicide in Tasmania seminar was facilitated by Glen Poole of the Stop Male Suicide Project. This post provides a short report of the day and includes information on our evaluation of the seminar and feedback from attendees.
Learning from men who’ve been there
The morning session featured local man, Tim Eldridge, who shared the journey that led him to attempt suicide as a younger man. This was the first time Tim had shared his story and the entire gathering was moved by his story and valued the insights his experience offered.
Tim explained that as an adoptee he “grew up feeling isolated and disconnected from everyone around me – like an alien”. Tim says that while adoptees are only a small fraction of the population, they “deserve recognition as an at-risk group, or even just recognition as a group that has experienced trauma”.
Tim was followed by John Clark, who also spoken about his experience of suicidality in a powerful presentation called: “What I learned from wanting to kill myself”.
Look out for your mates!
John, who now works in suicide prevention with Rural Alive and Well, an organisation which supports individuals, families and communities across Tasmania. He said:
“Looking back, I realise that we need to look out for our mates and know what to look for. We need to notice changes. I was overworked. Drinking too much. Withdrawn, tired, unable to concentrate. Staff would come to me and describe a problem and I couldn’t even comprehend what they were talking about! I had no interest in anything much. I was depressed, stressed, irritable, angry and not sleeping well. These kinds of things are red flags to me now because i know what to look for, and I look out for my mates”.
Looking out for LGBTI males
We were also joined by Andrew Badcock, the MINDOUT! Mental Health Project Worker at Working It Out, which supports people negotiating their gender, sexuality and/or intersex status in Tasmania.
Andrew spoke about some of the experiences of discrimination and hostility that males who identify as GBTI can face and the impact this can have on their mental wellbeing. It is well known now that GBTI males have higher rates of suicidality than heterosexual men and that we need to mindful that suicide prevention work engages effectively with these communities.
Resources for men and boys
Jonathan Bedloe of Men’s Resources Tasmania (MRT) gave a short presentation about the group. MRT’s work aims to improve the health and wellbeing of all Tasmanians by focusing on men and boys. You can find about more about Men’s Resources Tasmania here. We are enormously grateful to Jonathan and MRT for help the Stop Male Suicide project to make this event happen.
Thinking about male suicide
The morning session ended with a survey of participants to gather their thoughts on the following questions:
- What key things prevent you (or others) taking action to stop male suicide?
- What are the barriers in the way of you taking action to stop male suicide?
- Why is it difficult to stop male suicide?
- How does “the system” prevent us taking action to stop male suicide
- How does “our culture” prevent us taking action to stop male suicide?
- What needs to change to help you (and others) stop male suicide?
- What could you do with more of or less to help you stop male suicide?
- What one thing would make the biggest difference to help you take action?
We’ve captured some of their answers for reference here.
Speaking Up and Staying Chatty
In the afternoon we heard from Mark Watterson of the Karadi Aboriginal Corporation. Mark is an ambassador for R U OK? who draws on his personal experience of suicidality to inform his work with Aboriginal youth. Mark gave an inspiring talk called “Everyone has a story”.
Mark’s session was followed by a brief chat via speaker phone with Mitch McPherson, founder of SPEAK UP! Stay ChatTY, who joined us live from a sponsored run from Burnie to Hobart. Mitch was taking his suicide prevention message to streets and raising funds for his campaign which he founded in honour of his brother Ty, who he lost to suicide in 2013.
Doing it for dads doing it themselves
Bob Walker of Hobart City Mission providing an overview of the DIY Dads Program that works with homeless dads in Tasmania. We know that homelessness and being separated from your children are both factors that can increase men’s risk of suicide. Bob’s housing project helps homeless dads get their life back on track and stay fully involved in their children’s lives.
Helping Oz workers
Doug Vautier, CEO of the OzHelp Tasmania, provide an insightful and inspiring talk on the power of preventing suicide through the workplace. OzHelp Tasmania works to develop supported and resilient workplaces where suicide is not an option, by providing training to increase suicide alertness and awareness and prevent suicide. His talk was entitled Working with Men – ‘A New Mindset’.
Men of different backgrounds
Thir Thap of The Migrant Resoure Centre gave us some insights of the challenges faced by men from Culturally and Linguistically Diverse (CALD) communities in Tasmania. Thir told us that while attitudes towards mental health and suicide may vary from culture to culture, we shouldn’t let that prevent us from reaching out to support CALD me if we think are in need or at risk.
Listening to men’s stories
Our final speaker was Peter Stolp of Lifeline Tasmania who shared his experiences of working as a Lifeline telephone counsellor and talked about the healing power on non-judgmental listening.
Peter’s Q&A session was marked by a question from a man called Graeme Peck, who describe himself as a “gatecrasher’. Having lost a male relative to suicide at a notorious local hotspot, the Tasman Bridge, Graeme is committed to campaigning for action to be taken to make the bridge safe.
Male suicide prevention training
The Hobart event was followed, two weeks later, by a training day in Ross.
Our evaluation from the training day revealed that the group’s “male suicide literacy” rose from an already impressive 84% at 10am to a near perfect 99% by 4pm. We also know that at 10am 50% of the group were confident they could spot a man at risk of suicide, by 4pm 100% of the group said they were either confident or very confident they could spot a man at risk.
Feedback and evaluation
Our evaluation of the Hobart seminar revealed the following results:
|I am aware of the latest facts and figures about male suicide||Before: 7 out of 10 agree
After: 9 out of 10 agree
|I know which groups of men are most at risk of suicide and what the main risk factors are||Before: 6 out of 10
After: 8 out of 10
|I am confident that I could spot a man at risk of suicide||Before: 3 out of 10
After: 8 out of 10
|I am confident I could help a man at risk of suicide||Before: 8 out of 10
After: 9 out of 10
|I am aware of the services that and resources that are available to help men at risk of suicide||Before: 6 out of 10
After: 8 out of 10
The feedback on the day was overwhelmingly positive as the comments below demonstrate:
“Great seminar, I wish that it had have been made compulsory for ALL our staff to attend.”
“Excellent facilitation, well structured, good arrangement of diverse, credible speakers.”
“The diversity of speakers was a real highlight and otherwise I have no idea what you could improve.”
“I think it is the quality of information provided that people are assessing and all other considerations are secondary, although entertainment value is always a plus. In both regards I think everyone would rate the day highly.”
“A good opportunity to share knowledge and information, particularly from a male suicide prevention perspective.”
“Great content well put together and you are an excellent facilitator – well done you!”
“I really enjoyed the day, and found all the speakers stories touching and inspiring.”
“It was an excellent event.”
“It was a great seminar I look forward to more.”
“I really enjoyed the speakers and the honesty of their presentations. The coordinator was good.”
“I think the seminar was great and really appreciate your humour and open, easy way of running it.”
“The one thing that I enjoyed most about the seminar was the real stories. Bringing faces to statistics brings the topic into reality far better than ‘reading’ about it.”
“The amazing aura of respect and understanding you yourself projected flowed on to all people in attendance.”
“I always enjoy the real life stories that are shared…anything that invokes feeling in people is often far more memorable and meaningful than the facts and figures and I think you did really well providing a good balance between research based info and real life info.”
“It was honestly the most emotive, respectful and powerful seminar I have attended in some time.”
The Stop Male Suicide in Tasmania seminar was a great success. If you’d like to attend a seminar in your State or Territory, find out if there is an event coming up near you here: