By Cam Lucadou-Wells
Alarming male suicide rates do not just stem from a biological cause, says Associate Professor of Psychiatry and popular author Greg de Moore.
It has something to do with how we socialise men to suffer under a “misplaced stoicism”.
Based at Sydney’s Westmead Hospital, Mr de Moore is appearing at a free mental health forum in Dandenong this month.
It is what he calls a “profoundly important” topic that needs to be spoken about across the country.
He says he grew up in “typically working-class” North Coburg, where communication in families was minimal. Emotions were kept under a lid.
“Perhaps it’s an Australian style of communication that doesn’t treasure speaking out, communicating and sharing feelings.”
Mr de Moore says too many avoid sharing issues with a GP until it’s too late.
The silence can lead to heart attacks. It can lead to such profound depression that a person takes their own life, he says.
It’s why the R U OK?anti-suicide campaign is so “profoundly important”, he says.
He recounts late friends and colleagues who had not divulged their suffering. It had been thought they were “perfectly well”.
Mental illness – though afflicting 25 per cent of the population – is poorly funded, he says.
There needed to be more flexible, community-based responses to mental health, and a greater focus on youth wellbeing.
In the past decade, youth suicide rates have been on the ascent.
Mr de Moore said a weakened family environment, substance abuse and alienation were risk factors.
The biggest change has been the dual diagnosis of mental illness alongside the abuse of amphetamines, cannabis and alcohol.
Thirty years ago, it was rare that a schizophrenic patient had a substance abuse problem. It’s commonplace now, he says.
The impact of social media and new technology on young wellbeing is being studied.
“Among my patients, I’ve seen that the transmission of hateful comments has led time and time again to suicide attempts.”
Mr de Moore is well known for his popular books on the revolutionary Australian discovery of lithium as a bipolar treatment.
He also wrote a book and collaborated on a film on Tom Wills, the Australian Rules football pioneer who tragically took his own life at 44.
He is appearing at a Mental Health Forum held by Rotary Club of Greater Dandenong. Other speakers include Christina Molina of headspace, and educator Sara Villiers of The Metanoia Movement.
It is at Melaleuca Theatre, Dandenong High School, David Street, Dandenong on Wednesday 21 August, 7pm. Free entry, gold coin donations for mental health research (via Australian Rotary Health) are welcome.
If you need help, call Lifeline on 13 11 14 or Kids Help Line on 1800 55 1800.