A mental health researcher from Victoria University has said that more is needed from individuals and communities for suicide prevention, especially among males.

His Claim

Chris Bowden, a mental health researcher at Victoria University has said that more is required from individuals and communities in order to slow down or stop suicide. Bowden finished his masters recently, in which he focused on the topic of adolescent suicide. He also just recently finished a PhD on suicide bereavement among young men. He says that the suicide rate is quite high in New Zealand, particularly among men.

According to Bowden, from 2015 to 2016, there were about 579 suicides in the country, 409 of which were men. He emphasizes that everyone in the community has to be involved in reducing this rate.

“There’s no doubt about it that people who are going to those crisis services are not getting the care that they need… But  think the community does have a responsibility to play in this as well – it could be doing better,” he said.

Why The High Rate?

Bowden said that what is partly to blame is a “toxic” view of masculinity, and that there should be a shift in focus onto its more positive aspects. This included the idea that “men don’t need help,” “aren’t emotional,” and “didn’t talk about their feelings.”

He said the refocus should be shifted to “looking out for your mates, being loyal, persevering, having the courage and being brave enough to admit that we need support and help.”

“This is clearly a gender issue,” he said, “and we need whatever response we come up with in relation to suicide prevention to be gender responsive.”

“We’re not going to get more money but could that money be used to reduce suicide in men, as clearly they’re the highest risk group.”

He used Canada as a model, which just recently started shifting its language with regards to such issues.

“Rather than talking about counseling and therapy and self-care, which are traditionally seen as feminine terms, lets focus on things like life coaching, consultancy, skill building. That’s the kind of language men like or prefer.”

He also mentioned that in mental health research, men were quite under-represented, partly due to the fact that there were very little men to be found who were willing to speak about their issues.

“You’ve got to be trustworthy, you’ve got to be credibly, you’ve got to know what you’re talking about for them to open up about their experiences.”

“The feedback is ‘thank you for raising this issue, yes we have a problem with our guys, we need to do better.’”

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