HEALTH

Men Are Killing Themselves To Be 'Real Men'

Suicide has the highest gender disparity of any cause of death in Australia.

26/04/2017 3:14 PM AEST | Updated 02/05/2017 2:03 PM AEST

In Australia, we're at a crisis point with suicide.

The stigma of mental illness not only works to keep people suffering in silence but can blind us to its symptoms. Indeed, eight Australians now take their own lives every day.

You do not need to be diagnosed with a mental illness to come face-to-face with suicidal thoughts. A relationship breakdown, losing a job or any significant moment could suddenly have you on the edge.

And while no particular part of our society is left untouched, no one person exempt from the mental and physical aches that life can bring, men are three times more likely to take their lives than women.

One of the central drivers is in the way we define what it means to be a man in Australia, explains Dr Michael Flood, sociologist on men and masculinities.

"It's broken down a little, so it's shifted in some ways in Australia and it's uneven across Australia. But there's still a powerful ideal of what it means to be a man," he told HuffPost Australia.

"It's the idea that to be a man is to be tough, to be strong, to be invulnerable, to be heterosexual, to be in control, to avoid feelings and so on.

"If we teach men to always be tough, to be stoic, to not show pain, then we stuff up men's physical and emotional health, we limit men's friendships with other men and women, we limit men's relationships and we limit men's participation in society."

To limit men's ability to talk about how they're feeling is to interrupt their ability to seek help when they confront mental health challenges, or when they have suicidal thoughts.

This idea of what it means to be a man and its interference in help seeking was a key finding in a study from BeyondBlue and the Black Dog Institute, who researched the drivers behind men's suicide attempts.

"All of the men we interviewed, spoke to growing up in a culture where the message was implicit that they should not be speaking about their feelings," Dr Andrea Fogarty, research fellow at Black Dog Institute, told HuffPost Australia.

And for those who confront and overcome suicide, sharing their story of recovery can go a long way in helping others to make a different decision when it comes to those moments where everything seems to much, and they don't understand why.

Especially for men.

Lifeline is exploring Australia's suicide crisis with business and community leaders at the #StopSuicide Summit on May 1, in partnership with HuffPost Australia and Twitter Australia.

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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