According to Lifeline, nine Australians take their own lives every day – more than double the national road toll – and 75 per cent of those are men.
- Men’s Health Week runs from June 14-20
- Suicide is the leading cause of death for Australians between the ages of 15 and 44
- Beyond Blue says grassroots mental health groups have a lot to offer men in Australia
Suicide is the leading cause of death for Australians between the ages of 15 and 44.
The rate in Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples is twice that of their non-Indigenous counterparts, while people in rural populations are twice as likely to take their own lives than their city counterparts.
While there are plenty of medical and professional options available for men, some prefer a gentler approach to their wellbeing and mental health.
This has led to an increase in grassroots community groups that are more social and less clinical in helping men with their mental health issues.
The social buffer
Beyond Blue lead clinical adviser Grant Blashki said being connected socially was important for men’s mental health.
“Research tells is that it buffers against stressful life events and can help prevent mental illness,” he said.
“If someone is having some mental health issues, their GP will be able to help them but social connections in their life and family are really important as well.
“By joining these grassroots men’s groups, you catch up with other people, you have a routine, you’re getting out of the house and you’re meeting people socially.
“These are really important ways in helping to manage mental health issues.”
A good snag
One of these groups is Mr Perfect, which holds free barbecues across Australia every month to try and reduce social isolation and get men to talk to each other.
Organiser Terry Cornick said the idea came to him in 2016.
“I’d been having some mental health challenges and I went to get some professional help, but I found it was a very cold and impersonal experience,” he said.
“I shared my challenges with a few friends who also shared their challenges with me and we decided that we would put some advertisements up to kick a soccer ball around a local park and 40 guys turned just to kick the ball around.
“It was then that we realised it wasn’t the kicking of the ball that helped, but the chats that we had afterwards.”
Men of letters
Another group helping men to get out of the house is the Tough Guy Book Club, which Shay Leighton founded eight years ago.
“I started the club at the lowest point in my life,” he said.
“I needed a hobby, I needed to get out of the house, and I needed to meet more people.”
Mr Leighton said that the club was not promoted as a mental health organisation, but rather a chance to go to the pub and talk about books.
“Getting out of the house and reading and having more mates are all things that are good for you,” he said.
“Having a friend that you can really talk to can make a big difference.”
Are You Bogged, Mate? targets men in rural and remote communities across Australia.
Mary O’Brien said she started the organisation by accident after she wrote an article following two suicides in her local area.
“The opinion piece went viral and then people started to ask me to come and talk at events,” she said.
Now Ms O’Brien travels to rural and remote Australia talking to men and women.
“I’m trying to break down the stigma while normalising that everybody goes through patches and that everybody gets bogged,” she said.
“I talk to people who may be struggling and give them some of the signs and symptoms to look for and hopefully connect them with services that may be available to them.”