Julia Gillard Tackles The Scourge Of Male Suicide
As the Chair of the Beyond Blue board of directors, former Prime Minister Julia Gillard is on the frontlines of the mental health battle.
But the new statistics about the extent of male suicidal behaviour has even shocked her.
The new Beyond Blue study, titled Beyond The Emergency, found that over 30,000 men had had to be attended by an ambulance for attempted suicide or suicidal thoughts between June 2015 and July 2016.
“This fuller data set from ambulances means that the degree of the problem is three times bigger than we thought,” Ms Gillard says.
“And all of that results in about six men a day taking their own lives.”
Ms Gillard points out that while men and women attempt suicide in approximately equal numbers, men succeed at a far higher rate.
She explains that every suicide attempt needs to be dealt with as an individual case, and that hospital emergency departments are not the ideal way to deal with the majority of suicide attempts.
A key change which Beyond Blue has designed and is hoping to upscale is called The Way Back, providing a support worker for three months to anyone who has been hospitalised following a suicide attempt, rather than discharging them and leaving them to fend for themselves.
“No group in our community is at greater risk of dying by suicide than someone who’s already tried,” she explains.
Demographically, there are ages which are overrepresented in these statistics.
“A key risk window for men is in their late forties,” Ms Gillard observes, also identifying young men as being particularly at risk.
“But our broad message is: we would be making a dreadful error if we thought anybody was immune.”
But there are some positive signs, in that at least suicide is less of a taboo than it once was, allowing us to have frank conversations with people who we feel may be at risk.
“When I was growing up, no-one would talk about suicide, and if someone in your family suicided, people would make up a cover story about something else that caused the death, because it was such a shameful thing.”
Though she admits that the conversation isn’t ever going to be an easy one to have, she says that we’ve got to be talking and thinking about suicide. The Beyond Blue website includes some ideas as to how to approach this kind of conversation. It’s an important step towards saving lives.