You have probably noticed a number of posts on social media this week of men photographing themselves making the ‘okay' symbol with their hand and nominating their friends to do the same.
It is a simple gesture with an important message – it’s time for men to talk more openly about their feelings.
The topic of suicide is never an easy one to bring up, especially in the media, but slowly our community is finding ways to change and influence the conversation around mental health while raising awareness for suicide prevention.
In Australia, suicide is the biggest killer of Australian men aged 15 to 44, eclipsing road death, cancer and heart disease.
Three times as many men compared to women take their own lives. Globally that accounts for 510,000 men each year, or one every minute.
The statistics will no doubt surprise you, and to be honest, they should.
Co-founder of the Movember Foundation Adam Garone wrote a column for the Huffington Post this week that said mental health outcomes were weighted against men because most blokes don't handle mental illness well.
“We can't afford to stay silent,” he wrote. “We need to talk about the tough stuff and we need to act.
“This is the most significant health issue we face and not taking action can lead you down a very dark path, with devastating results.
“Across the world, the facts speak clearly: men aren't going to the doctor soon enough. They're not comfortable talking about their health and their feelings. They struggle in silence, or take action too late.”
Mr Garone said talking about health, relationships and tough times was never easy for anyone but traditional concepts of masculinity were putting an extra burden on men.
“We need to bring attention (and funding) to the biggest crisis in men's health,” he wrote. “We need to encourage men to talk more with their friends, and find healthy ways to cope with difficult feelings and circumstances.”
While this issue is not going to solve itself overnight, it is pleasing to see our regional community doing something about it.
This week we learnt about Overwatch Australia, a volunteer organisation that monitors the social media pages of struggling former service members who might be contemplating suicide.
The group’s 4500 nation-wide volunteers, who are all former or current members of the Australian Defence Force, deploy rapidly to those in need.
There was also a touching moment before Sunday’s colts football match between South Bunbury and Bunbury with players from both teams locked together in a circle for a minute’s silence to recognise a young life lost to suicide.
Each donned a black arm band in remembrance and a yellow arm band in recognition of youth suicide prevention.
While the players were clearly shocked by the sudden loss, it was encouraging to see teammates and opponents starting conversations with each other about their feelings.
But these conversations need to be the tip of the iceberg.
A new Facebook group called Reach-Out South West has started to give people a safe space to discuss their mental health with and to seek support and guidance from other locals.
The all-inclusive group hopes to start meaningful conversations while breaking down stigmas and taboos.
Those living in Bunbury and the South West have always shown they are at their best when they are helping other people.
Let’s work together to make sure this current moment is no different.
If you or someone you love is in crisis or needs support, call Lifeline on 13 11 14, Suicide Call Back Service on 1300 659 467, MensLine Australia on 1300 789 978 or Kids Helpline on 1800 551 800.
- Andrew Elstermann.
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