These are the faces of fathers, footballers, businessmen, police officers — everyday blokes in the Sunshine Coast community who have battled mental demons.
- Males account for four out of five suicides on the Sunshine Coast, the majority are aged between 40 and 60 years of age.
- Portraits of Mankind is a photography exhibition aimed at putting a human face to men’s mental health issues.
- The Thompson Institute said the high rates of male suicide in the region ‘haven’t budged’ for many years
The striking images are part of a new campaign aimed at cutting male suicide rates in the region, which are currently nine per cent higher than the national average.
Photographer Megan Gill said she was inspired to capture the portraits after she was touched by suicide.
“It began with a man called Shane Collins, I printed a photograph for a memorial that his friends were putting on for him,” she said.
“In that moment I thought ‘I wished he could see himself through my lens’ and so began Portraits of Mankind.”
‘Portraits of Mankind’ opened yesterday at the Maroochydore RSL and runs through to November.
Ms Gill has captured images and stories of men aged between 20 and 60 years of age from across the region, who’ve survived their mental health battles.
“I’m always trying to embed meaning into my work and this is something far greater than me and I look forward to continuing it.
“I think it will be my life’s work.”
High rates of male suicide haven’t ‘budged’
The exhibition is being run in partnership with the University of the Sunshine Coast’s Thompson Institute – a facility researching mental health and neurological disorders.
Director, Professor Jim Lagopoulos said rates of suicide on the Sunshine Coast were nine per cent higher than the national average.
“Four out of five suicides on the Sunshine Coast are males and that statistic hasn’t really budged for a while.”
Mr Lagopoulos said males aged between 40 and 60 were the most likely to take their own lives.
“It really is a significant problem,” he said.
“What I like most about what Megan has done here, they’re just everyday blokes.”
Police at the forefront of portrait campaign
Police officer Paul Frazer said he wanted his image featured in the exhibition to show others it was okay to speak up.
“It’s an honour to represent the Queensland Police Service and to put a spotlight on it that mental health doesn’t discriminate.”
Mr Frazer is currently the acting mental health intervention coordinator for the Vulnerable Persons Unit on the Sunshine Coast.
“We ran a workshop a little while ago specifically for police officers on the Sunshine Coast called Strengthening the Thin Blue Line,” he said.
“As police, we have identified that your work colleagues are sometimes in the best position to identify how you’re travelling, sometimes you’re not the best marker with yourself.”
He said attitudes about mental health had changed dramatically in his 31 years in the police service.
“We believe that was of greatest assistance to quite a large number of police on the Sunshine Coast.”