A person dies from suicide somewhere in the world every 40 seconds.

In Australia, six men on average die from suicide every day. That’s nearly double the national road toll.

Those alarming statistics show the problem of men’s mental health is universal, and it’s only getting worse, according to the World Health Organization (WHO). There are now more countries that have instigated national suicide prevention strategies than five years ago, when WHO published its first global report on suicide, but that number is only 38, which, the organisation says, is still far too few.

Director-General of WHO, Dr Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus, said in a media statement recently, “Despite progress, one person still dies every 40 seconds from suicide. Every death is a tragedy for family, friends and colleagues. Yet suicides are preventable. We call on all countries to incorporate proven suicide prevention strategies into national health and education programs in a sustainable way.”

Perhaps surprisingly, WHO found that suicide rates are higher in high-income countries, and is the second leading cause of death among young people. Suicide rates varied from five per 100,000 people to over 30 per 100,000 people, and nearly three times as many men die from suicide in high-income countries, as opposed to a more equal rate among genders in low-income countries, although 79% of suicides occurred in low- and middle-income countries. However, the highest rate of suicides is in high-income countries, at 11.5 per 100,000.

Making a difference to mental health and suicide

A young man in London has made strides in helping men overcome mental health issues by launching a clothing brand, Boys Get Sad Too, designed to encourage men to talk about their problems and seek help before it’s too late. Just over a year ago, Kyle Stanger printed T-shirts with the words ‘Boys get sad too’ on them, and started selling them after he generated some interest on a Facebook page. Now he has a full-time clothing brand with more than 35 products, and has developed an online community battling the stigma of mental health and the predilection for men to take their own lives rather than seek help.

“The brand is building into a community of people sharing the same goal – putting an end to the stigma of talking about mental health,” he told London’s Evening Standard.

According to Australian mental health organisation Beyond Blue, up to 45% of people in Australia will experience a mental health condition in their lifetime, while about one million Australian adults suffer from depression, and over two million from anxiety. During their lives, one in eight men will experience depression, on average, while one in five men will experience anxiety at some stage.

On 1 November 2019, the Productivity Commission released its draft ‘Mental Health’ report for public comment. Mental health organisation Black Dog Institute hopes the report is a start towards a world-leading mental health system that could provide both individuals and communities with access to mental health treatment and prevention programs.

Men are, on average, involved in six of every eight suicides in Australia every day.

Director and Chief Scientist at Black Dog Institute, Scientia Professor Helen Christensen said in a media statement, “We know that addressing our country’s mental health concerns will come at great costs to government, the mental health sector and those on the frontline in our local communities. However, given the Productivity Commission’s finding that mental illness and suicide is now costing Australia $500 million a day, continuing to do the same things is no longer an option.”

The highest proportion of suicide deaths occurs among young and middle-aged people, but the rate decreases among older people. More than half (54.8%) of all suicide deaths in 2018 were people aged from 30 to 59. Alarmingly, in 2018, suicide was responsible for 38.4% of deaths among people aged 15–24 and 29.4% of deaths among people aged 25–34.

Even more alarmingly, the suicide rate among Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people is more than double the national rate. In 2015, suicide accounted for 5.2% of all Indigenous deaths, compared to 1.8% for non-Indigenous people.

If you need someone to talk to, contact BeyondBlue: 1300 22 4636, MensLine Australia: 1300 78 99 78 or Lifeline: 13 11 14