ENTERTAINMENT

'Man Up': A Doco Starting A Conversation Around Male Suicide

Radio presenter Gus Worland is challenging what it means to be an 'Aussie bloke.'

10/10/2016 10:25 AM AEDT | Updated 10/10/2016 3:31 PM AEDT
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Triple M presenter Gus Worland lost his best mate, Angus, to suicide in 2006.

Angus was the life of the party. A father figure and role model to Worland, Angus was his go-to guy whenever he needed advice be it relationships or his next career move.

"I just couldn't believe someone like him could take his own life. In fact, I asked the police to check if there was anything slightly suspicious," Worland told The Huffington Post Australia.

It took Worland nine years to fully come to terms with his death. To cope with his grief, he would visit Narrabeen Headland where he'd yell out to Angus, screaming at him in anger for leaving him and so many people he loved behind.

The same lookout point is the setting for the opening scene of ABC's new documentary series "Man Up" which follows Worland's mission to kickstart a conversation about male suicide in Australia.

The number one way to lose your life if you are an Aussie bloke aged between 15 and 44 is suicide. It's not drugs and it's not car accidents. We're losing so many young men and nobody is talking about it.

"The number one way to lose your life if you are an Aussie man aged between 15 and 44 is suicide. It's not drugs and it's not car accidents. We're losing so many young men and nobody is talking about it," Worland said.

The documentary, filmed over 61 days sees Worland travel across the country, seeking experts working in the mental health industry and talking to real Aussie men about masculinity and what it means to be a man.

"We've got the stereotypical stoic Aussie bloke who's buff and gets the ladies, drinks the beer and has a bet and wins," Worland said.

ABC
'It's clear to me that not enough men feel like they can go home to their loved ones or their mates and let them know when they might be feeling sad. We like to think we have a cape on our backs.'

"He's the hero -- and of course he has plenty of money -- and we've got this image shoved down our throats continuously."

"But the simple fact is that it's very difficult to live up to this kind of person," Worland said.

This mentality and the inability to show emotion is abundantly clear throughout the series, whether Worland is in outback Australia, a construction site or a year 10 classroom.

"When life gets you down or if you're feeling sad, you have to 'suck it up'," Worland said.

"This symbol of masculinity is actually killing us because we don't give ourselves the opportunity to say, 'hey, I feel vulnerable, can you help me?'"

The very difficulty of this motion is explored during episode two when youth mental health worker Tom Harkin leads a workshop with a group of year 10 boys which includes Worland's son.

"At the beginning they're all just mucking around, playing with their phones and then within half an hour Tom gets them talking about masculinity and why they think it is the way it is," Worland said.

"After an hour some of them are in tears, every single one is fully engaged and contributing. To this day my son said it was the best day of education he's ever had."

The filming process gave Worland himself something invaluable, too -- the opportunity to form a greater understanding around what his best mate was going through leading up to his death.

"It's clear to me that not enough men feel like they can go home to their loved ones or their mates and let them know when they might be feeling sad. We like to think we have a cape on our backs," Worland said.

Life throws you a certain amount of shit -- and a whole lot of good things too -- but when things fall down it's about having the confidence to speak truthfully about your emotions, show vulnerability and ask for help.

After visiting a Lifeline helpline centre in episode one, Worland said he is now in training to volunteer as a counsellor himself and said he was blown away by all of the organisations doing positive things in the community driving change and awareness.

"It's not just the Lifelines and Black Dogs -- one of those include 'Fuck Up Nights' -- where you go to the pub, put your hand up and say 'I fucked up today,'" Worland said.

"It's about celebrating the fact that it's OK not to be perfect and not to be on top of things."

Worland hopes families watch the series together on Tuesday and that it sparks an open conversation.

"Life throws you a certain amount of shit -- and a whole lot of good things too -- but when things fall down it's about having the confidence to speak truthfully about your emotions, show vulnerability and ask for help."

"Man Up" series premieres Tuesday, October 11 at 8.30pm on ABC & iview.

If you need help in a crisis, call Lifeline on 13 11 14. For further information about depression contact beyondBlue on 1300224636 or talk to your GP, local health professional or someone you trust.

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