Thursday, October 29, 2015

Australian Suicide Rates and Men

According to an article written by Susan Beaton and Dr. Peter Forster in InPsych of 2012, “suicide is the number one killer of men under 44 …” (Beaton) in Australia.  The rate of suicide among men versus women (all ages) is 3 – 1.  According to the Australian Bureau of Statistics (ABS) in 2012 young men between 15 – 24 were twice as likely to die of suicide than women and with regard to “Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islanders, the rate of suicide in male youth from 15 – 19 was over 4 times higher than other Australian youth” (ABS) and the highest rate of suicide occurs in young aboriginal men between the ages of 20 – 24 yrs.  It should be noted that the median age for suicide is going down and in the past year there were two cases of boys as young as 11 killing themselves.  This is a crises and we need to understand why so many of our young men are choosing to end their lives.


It is widely know that mental health issues are a huge factor in the reason people commit suicide.  While Australia has worked extremely hard to ensure services are available the very culture of masculinity prevents many males from seeking the help they need.  In fact according to Cassie White in her article Boys don’t cry: young men and suicide, “… only 27 per cent of men seek professional help, compared to 40 percent of women” (White)  Don’t cry, be strong, work through it, all terms slung at boys and young men as they navigate through their life.  They fear turning to family members as they are afraid of being classified as a sissy, so in turn they internalize their problems and eventually, for some, this becomea too big a burden and they end their lives.  The Aussie culture evolves around a strong bloke.  This is an oversimplification of the root of the problem, as there are multiple factors that come into play, abuse, rape, poverty, race, culture, etc. however, I believe that young males are less likely to seek help on any of these issues because of the way they have been taught to act within the realm of their masculinity and the culture of the country.  In order to cope with the stressors they are experiencing, young men often turn to alcohol or other destructive behaviors as a way to survive.  This exacerbates the problem and actually puts them at a higher risk of hurting themselves.


I cannot leave this blog without speaking to the disparity between Aboriginal youth and other Australian youth. Firstly, the indigenous population in Australia make up approximately 3% of the population and they experience higher rates of poverty, physical abuse, illiteracy, unemployment and substance abuse than other groups in Australia.  Therefore, when we see figures, stating that the rate of suicide for young Aboriginal men is 4 times higher than their Australian counterparts, it becomes clear that this specific group of men are in a clear crises mode.    

 Australian Bureau of Statistics, (2012) Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Suicide Deaths.


Beaton, Susan & Forster, P. (2012) Insights into men’s suicide. InPsych August 2012

White, Cassie (2013) ABC Health & Wellbeing

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