A National Tragedy

“The men’s suicide rate in Australia is a national tragedy,” said Mork.

WHAT does it take to drive someone to so much despair that they take their own life? Don’t they understand the pain they are causing for the ones they leave behind, the all-consuming grief their loved ones are going to go through? The questions that will be asked, the self-blame that will occur? Why didn’t he speak to me, why didn’t I realise, why did he do it? I don’t know but I think their pain is so great they see it as a relief.

I am saying ‘he’ purposely. Not to put down female suicide, any suicide is tragic, but men suicide at a rate of three to one compared to women. This fact is consistent from state to state in Australia. In fact, it is consistent throughout the Western World.

From 2011—2015 there were an average of 2687 suicides per year. In 2015, the number was 3027 with 2292 being men and 735 women. That is roughly 8.5 per day. The number of men suiciding annually is nearly double the national road toll.

Also in 2015, in men aged 15—44, suicide was the leading cause of death and the second leading cause in the 45—54 age group.* Think about that for a second. For 40 years death by our own hands is in the top two reasons why we cease to exist.

One of the groups prone to suicide is those with depression or a psychotic illness. One in eight men will experience depression and one will five will experience anxiety. We are prescribing more medication than ever before, prescription of anti-depressants has doubled since the year 2000.*

Why men?

Men are stoic, men bottle up their feelings, men are tougher, men are more prone to substance abuse, men have less fear of death, men as they age have fewer social connections… many reasons are given by the medical community and they seem to ring true.

In the Veteran community the figures are a bit different. Men that are still serving are 53 percent less likely to take their own lives than the average, however, once they have left service, they are 13 percent more likely to suicide.

Nine in ten Veteran suicides are men and three in five are aged 18—34. Veterans who are unemployed or Totally and Permanently Incapacitated (TPI) are 3.3 times more likely to suicide than those in paid work. Military suicides are up to double the rate of the community average for younger veterans.*

Some seem to think the opportunity to do something with meaning has some effect on the lower rates for those employed. Many former defence personnel did not want to leave service; it gave them identity and meaning. There is also evidence that Veterans who mix with other Veterans cope better with these transitions and benefit from speaking with people who understand them.

There are a lot of Military Motorcycle clubs around now. I am involved with one. Part of the reason for our existence and stated quite clearly as our role is support to the Veteran community. Veterans, riding or not, are always welcome at our club. We understand the bond of brotherhood and genuinely care how our brothers are going. The increase in military based club numbers is a direct result of the new wave of younger Veterans from recent conflicts seeking out something that gives them that same feeling.

This is how the whole scene started in the immediate aftermath of World War II. Look past the headlines and the government agendas, look past the small amount of bad boys and gangsters. See that groups of men find a kinship on two wheels.

The 1% clubs started this, they get it. 

There are a lot of options out there for men to make social connections in the motorcycle world. If you are not ex-Military or can’t make the commitment required of 1% membership, there are many social motorcycle clubs and loosely organised rider groups. All it takes is an interest and google or Facebook to find something near you.

The men’s suicide rate in Australia is a national tragedy. I truly believe having something meaningful in your life and someone who gets you and is willing to listen can help.

There is something special about riding with a group of brothers. Earlier this year I took part in an eight-day road trip with my brothers to our club’s National AGM. The highlight for me was when the Chapters gathered in Tailem Bend for the ride to Lonsdale in Southern Adelaide. The host chapter’s outriders ensured we kept together, and being a former South Aussie, you could not get the smile off my dial as the outriders blocked off Main South Road approaching peak hour on a Friday afternoon so several hundred of us could get through.

Not for you! There are almost 1000 men’s sheds around the country. They have a website http://mensshed.org/

“Sometimes even to live is an act of courage — Seneca.”

Article submitted by Mork.

*All stats from the Institute of Health and Welfare, Hunter Institute of Health and the Australian Government.

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