Earlier this year, I received one of the most tragic phone calls I’ve ever taken. One of our Bayside Church leaders told me that a guy, who’d been part of our church for over a decade, had died by suicide. I dropped everything and raced over to the house. By the time I arrived, detectives and the police were in attendance, confirming that the worst had happened and this precious guy had ended his life.
Over the next hours and days, I spent time letting his wife and family, and then his closest friends, know what had happened. To see the utter devastation in so many people was heartbreaking. At times like these, there are so many questions that cannot be answered. At his funeral, I did my best to comfort, encourage, and give hope to his family and friends.
The sorrow I witnessed at the start of the year is encountered several times every day all around Australia, and thousands of times daily in every country of the world.[i]
“Countries large and small, advanced and developing, all experience the pain of suicide firsthand.” [ii] In all but one of these countries (Lesotho), men are more likely to suicide than women (75% of suicides in Australia are men).
Last month, the Australian Bureau of Statistics released its Causes of Death report, highlighting that Australians are taking their lives at an unacceptable rate with suicides increasing. Suicide is the leading cause of death amongst 15 to 44-year-old’s, and the third highest cause of death amongst those from 45 and 64.
SANE Australia CEO, Jack Heath says, “Suicide rates are heading in the wrong direction and we need to change this. We also know that the risk of suicide is higher for those living with complex mental illness and we still have a long way to go in reducing the stigma associated with complex mental illness and in facilitating access to adequate evidence-based care and support. It is now more important than ever to support people and help them understand that the world is better off with them.”
Starting with Mental Health
One in two Australian men will have had a mental health issue at some time in their lives. According to the Movember website, “Most of us say we’d be there for our mates if they need us.” But sadly, “Most of us also say that we feel uncomfortable asking mates for help.”
Now more than ever there are a great number of resources available to help us deal with mental health concerns. Websites like Conversations Matter offer lots of ideas for discussing suicide, and Beyond Blue have an entire page dedicated to getting help and ‘having the conversation.’ Heads Up Guys offer health strategies to help men manage and prevent depression, and Head to Health is an Australian Government initiative that enables you to access many mental health services and resources.
With regards to my friend who died earlier this year, none of us (his friends and family) were aware of how bad things were for him or that taking his life was on his mind. We are all devastated by his loss. Rarely a day goes by when I don’t think of him.
Finding Support After Suicide
One of the most helpful things at this time was a visit by a lady from Jesuit Social Services (JSS) who offer a program Support After Suicide. She spent a couple of hours with me, Christie and our pastors at Bayside Church. JSS offers some excellent resources on their website that will help you if someone close to you has taken their life.
Men’s mental health and suicide is something that touches (or will touch) us all. Early intervention is a key strategy in mental health recovery. I encourage you to start and continue those difficult conversations with loved ones, stay connected to your community and seek help if you recognise some warning signs in yourself or another.
RU OK also provides information on how to approach someone you may be concerned about.
If you’d like to do something practical, join me in November as I #bringbackthemo. Create a profile on www.au.movember.com, grow a Mo and encourage people to donate to the cause of men’s mental health. If you’d like to sponsor me, please click here.
Also, if you live in Melbourne, I invite you to join us at Bayside Church for a Men’s Mental Health Night on either the 8th or 13th November. You’ll hear men talk about what it takes to develop a community of support, as well as GP’s about best practice treatments and their role in supporting men. It’s a free event, and everyone is welcome.
SANE Help Centre on 1800 187 263 or firstname.lastname@example.org from 10am-10pm AEST
Lifeline – 13 11 14
Suicide Call Back Line – 1800 659 467
MensLine – 1300 789 978
Beyond Blue – 1300 22 4636
Kids Helpline (5 to 25 years old) – 1800 551 800
Headspace (12 to 25 years old) – headspace.org.au
[i] About 3,000 people a day commit suicide, that’s one every 40 seconds. For each individual who takes his/her own life, at least 20 attempts to do so. Approximately one million people commit suicide every year worldwide.