6 Australian men commit suicide every single day. Why? We live in affluent times. The average Australian male earns $82,000 per year, and lives in a warm house, with a comfortable bed, a fridge full of food, running water, a flat-screen TV, and a new model car parked in the garage. We are blessed with clean air, green grass, sunshine, surfing beaches, freedom from oppression, peace, and liberty. So what are the reasons for this alarming statistic?
Despite the above advantages, it is not easy being a man in today’s world. There are pressures and complications. As well as suicide, men are hugely over-represented in statistics documenting homelessness, substance abuse, incarceration, and a host of other life-shortening activities. What is to blame? Toxic masculinity? Men are competitive by nature. We fight and jostle for position. We can be cruel to the loser. We look for weaknesses to exploit and take advantage of, but is that toxic behaviour? We are biologically hardwired for competition and ambition. The survival and advancement of the species have depended on these male traits.
In the US about 20 war veterans commit suicide per day, while hundreds of thousands are either homeless or in jail. While interviewing Australian Vietnam War veterans for another publication, it became very clear that the men who had remained in the armed forces after that disastrous campaign had fared much better than the conscripts who had served their tour and returned immediately to civilian life. The army was a safe place where the shell-shocked could discuss their feelings to other men who understood. Civilian life was a scary place where nobody knew what to say. Families and friends tiptoed around the subject and veterans felt isolated and alone and many drifted toward the crutches of drug and alcohol abuse. Men who retire from professional team sports often experience a similar sense of hopelessness. Gone is the familiar structure, the camaraderie, the feelings of mateship and that other guys have got your back. Many former athletes describe entering a dark place where the dangers of loneliness and isolation can take hold.
Recent advances in studies on addiction have centred on isolation as the main factor that drives drug users toward their poison. Rats housed in cages with other rats and playgrounds ignore the cocaine water to interact with their cage-mates, while those locked alone in empty cages quickly succumb to the spiked water bottle and drink it until they die.
Australian men are notoriously bad at connecting, yet we need the company of other like-minded males for our own well-being. We routinely form friendships based solely around activities, like attending sporting events, but it can feel weird to reach out in the off-season, just to see how our mate is coping with the hardships of life. We rarely make that first move. We are guilty of choosing isolation over interaction. Australian men also typically bond around alcohol consumption, so if you are a non-drinking, non-sports fan then options to socialise diminish greatly, while our well-being is dependant on male interaction. So join a club, get involved, reach out, cultivate genuine friendships with men who understand the pressures and complexities of your life. Take the initiative, catch up and get talking.
AMG is looking to address the trend of isolation with upcoming content and initiatives, as well as countering some of the nonsense that is propagated via other ill-informed sources.
If you have any ideas, comments or feedback, drop us a line.
If you need help or someone to talk to call Lifeline on 13 11 14.