Gender stigma contributes to more men taking their own lives

By Shannon Chamberlain.

A new study by the Australian Bureau of Statistics (ABS) reveals the number of South Australian men who died by suicide is three times higher than that of females.

The study shows a total of 174 men and 62 women took their own lives in 2015.

Chair of Mental Health Nursing at the University of South Australia Professor Nicholas Procter says the reason male suicide rates are higher than females is because men are less likely to seek support for their mental health issues.

Professor Procter said, “Stigma, shame and guilt associated with a reluctance to seek help are known factors in men who died by suicide.

“Work needs to be done to change the current dominant construction of masculinities [including] that some men must feel they should ‘man up’ and ‘be tough’.

“While men’s health programs are essential and supportive, addressing stereotypes around masculinity and gender relations in general is thought to be [a] significant first step in attending to men’s mental health.”

Professor Procter said organisations in SA are ‘doing great work’ but there’s always room for more to be done.

“Reduce access to lethal means, provide suicide prevention education training… and treat the drivers of suicidal states,” Professor Procter said.

Twenty-four-year-old Jack Miller has depression, anxiety and post-traumatic stress disorder.

Miller’s mental health issues have impacted his work, relationships and studies.

“I quite often feel like I can’t get my shit together and consequently feel worthless,” Miller said.

Miller said he believes the gender stigma is common despite greater mental health awareness in SA.

“Men have historically been seen as the backbone of the household,” Miller said.

“They don’t have time to be weak, they cannot afford to lose their pride and they are pressured to become this ‘macho’ character which has been portrayed towards men for centuries.

“From personal experience, I’ve seen that men have been quick to ridicule and single out those suffering from mental health problems and label them as less than other men.”

Miller said action needs to go beyond ‘simple’ or ‘temporary’ campaigns if the gender stigma is to be stopped.

“Mental health needs to be consistently addressed, discussed and in some circumstances educated throughout schools, workplaces and other social situations exclusive to men,” Miller said.

“I believe that SA is well equipped to take on mental illness… however, there is an absence of a mental health organisation exclusively targeting males.”

Twenty-year-old Daniel Page-West has depression and anxiety and experiences regular mood swings and breakdowns.

“This affects my day-to-day life especially with friendships,” Page-West said.

“I shut myself off from people and don’t go out as much.”

Page-West also thinks there is a gender stigma surrounding men with mental health issues.

“…many people have it in their minds that men don’t have much [sic] emotion like women do,” Page-West said.

“I do not think the stigma is going away anytime soon.”

Page-West said more organisations are needed in SA to ensure that men can have access to support services when they need it.

“I have a feeling nothing is getting done about it because people still have it in their minds that men don’t have emotions,” Page-West said.




If you or another person you know needs support, please contact the Suicide Call Back Service on 1300 659 467 or Lifeline on 13 11 14.

If it’s an emergency, please call 000.

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