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Australia Addresses High Rates of Male Suicide

A man lays wreaths during a memorial service for suicide victims in Sydney (file photo).
An irreverent campaign to help reduce high rates of male suicide is under way in Australia. Advertisements featuring a fictional "man's man" are encouraging men to seek help for depression and anxiety. Suicide is the leading cause of death for Australian men aged under 45.

The “Man Therapy” campaign is an attempt to use humor to encourage Australian men to take their mental health more seriously, and to help them recognize the signs of anxiety and depression.

On average, every five hours an Australian male under age 45 takes his own life. For every completed suicide, experts estimate that as many as 30 people attempt to take their own lives. Men in Australia are four times more likely to die by suicide than women, while the prevalence of suicide among indigenous people is far higher than for their non-Aboriginal counterparts.

The new awareness advertisements are the work of the national depression charity Beyond Blue.

Its chairman Jeff Kennett says male suicide has become a national emergency.

“Every week, 33 men take their own lives… in the age group 14 to 44, the biggest killer of men is suicide.”

Australia’s ‘macho’ culture is often blamed for stopping those most at risk from seeking help.

Watch Beyond Blue's ad campaign video:

Like police officers around the world, Allan Sparks witnessed harrowing scenes during a 20-year career. He ignored the warning signs of psychological damage, and eventually suffered a nervous breakdown.

“Post-traumatic stress was to me like a never ending replaying of events in a DVD that was going over and over in my mind. The traumatic events and the things that I had seen, the things I’d been involved in were just continually in my vision, and eventually it got to the stage where I just couldn’t sleep because I just couldn’t close my eyes. I couldn’t keep seeing these things.”

The architects of the new national suicide prevention campaign say they are tapping into that great Australian tradition of using humor to deal with sensitive issues. They hope it will encourage many of the one in eight Australian men who will suffer depression at some point in their lives to seek help.

Latest figures indicate that Australia’s rate of suicide is still lower than those in New Zealand, Britain and the United States.