Something is wrong

I saw a sentence on the homepage of news.com.au yesterday that stopped me in my tracks.

It said: “Something is very wrong with Australian men.”

I immediately thought it was a story about the shocking domestic violence crisis we’re facing in this country.

It wasn’t.

It was about World Mental Health Day and how men are three times more likely to take their own lives than women.

In 2017, the number of deaths from intentional self harm was 3128. Of those lives lost, 75% — or 2349 — were men, according to the Bureau of Statistics.

Suicide is the leading cause of death in Australian men aged 15 to 44 — more than double the national road toll.

I felt terrible that I’d jumped to the wrong conclusion. My reaction reinforced a fear thst’s been niggling at me: kind, gentle men are getting lost in the crossfire of the #metoo movement and the deadly rise of domestic violence.

I am appalled that so many women are being assaulted or dying at the hands of men. But I also worry that we are lumping the entire male gender together as “bad” and downplaying the struggles they face.

SANE Australia chief executive Jack Heath noted that a staggering 72% of men don’t seek help for mental health disorders.

“Obviously there’s something happening coming into adulthood, big issues in middle age — I’d say around divorce or separation — and again in late life,” he said.

“In this country we still have quite dominant ideas of what it means to be a man. It’s putting up with things and pushing through, a sense of stoicism.”

I think the pain that men suffer during divorce and custody battles is often overlooked and undervalued.

The main reason my husband stayed in our unhappy marriage for so long was that he didn’t want to miss seeing his kids every day.

It caused him great pain when our co-parenting arrangement meant I had the kids eight nights a fortnight while he only saw them for six.

It’s why I actively work to ensure his relationship with the children stays strong and that they continue with the hassle of moving between households each week.

His love for his children is just as important as mine.

But I see so many cases where a father’s love isn’t respected or valued.

My friend and fellow journalist Corinne Barraclough wrote in The Daily Telegraph about seeing a message in an online support group that said: “We lost another good dad this week. I won’t name him here and I won’t point fingers, but I am tired of being quiet about this issue. I have met way too many people lately that are grieving the loss of their living children, for no good reason, other than the fact the other parent can’t or won’t co-operate.”

“’Grieving the loss of their living children’. Sit with those words for a moment. How heartbreaking that echo.”

I wish more ex-partners would sit with those words instead of in courtrooms fighting vicious battles that no one ever really wins.

It’s the other terrible epidemic our country is facing and men are usually the ones suffering.

That’s not something to be ridiculed or dismissed.

If you or someone you know needs help, contact Lifeline on 13 11 14 or visit lifeline.org.au .

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