SPA CEO on Men’s Health Week

16 June 2015

There’s been a lot of debate this past week about getting “good” jobs and Sydneysiders needing to “get a better job” to thrive in the property market.

Well, as much as I’d love to throw my two cents (probably literally) into water cooler conversation about Australian housing prices, what I really want us to focus on is the need for meaningful employment.

A good or better job is not the issue. It is about employment that is meaningful for the individual.

Research tells us that we must build resilience in all areas of our lives and address suicide as a public health issue, not just a mental health issue. Social determinants such as socio economic disadvantage, employment, education, housing, social environment and family functionality can all contribute to suicide ideation, behaviours and death and must be factored into suicide prevention policy and programs.

This week (Men’s Health Week) we join our members in shining the light on men and boys’ health along with their family, community and professional support systems.

However, with a large proportion of Australian men taking their own lives in arguably the prime of their working lives I wanted to go one step further and shine a light on men and employment.

Suicide is the leading cause of death for men under the age of 44. In addition to this, there are worryingly high rates of suicide in men in their middle years (aged 39-55).

So what’s being done about this?

In recent years, we have seen SPA members running projects and campaigns that are designed by and for men – ranging from crisis services to preventative support programs in male dominated workplaces. Some great examples of this are MATES in Construction AustraliaMensLine AustraliaMen’s ShedsMan Therapy.

There are many more but today I want to share two specific initiatives with you.

Earlier this year, our friends Anthony Smith and Dr John Ashfield at AIMHS (Australian Institute of Male Health and Studies) developed the Men, Employment and Suicide Prevention 2015 Guidelines. These guidelines have been designed to help communities in their planning of research and prevention strategies for men who may be in crisis as a result of their unemployment.

This month we have also seen this put into practice with completion of a Federal Government funded program called Men’s 45+ which was facilitated by the Geelong Region Local Learning Employment Network (GRLLEN). Mature aged men who had been retrenched from their respective employment undertook a four day workshop to share their experiences and gain valuable information on returning to the workforce.

We have a long way to go in combatting the complexities that lead someone to want to kill themselves. But, I am confident that by helping our communities to understand the raft of factors that impact our lifestyle and behaviours outside the traditional health system, we can reduce the number of suicides in this country.

Don’t worry about getting a better job; but do think about what a better job looks like for your positive health and wellbeing.

Best wishes


1 February 2014
Most deaths by suicide are among people of working age. Suicide is the leading cause of death for males aged 25–44 years and females aged 25–34 years. The proportion of suicides that are work-related is unclear.