Engaging Fairfield | 'Ignorance' surrounds male suicide

The Parks Community Network Operations Manager Mathew Dillon. Picture: Simon Bennett
The Parks Community Network Operations Manager Mathew Dillon. Picture: Simon Bennett

Eight people a day kill themselves in Australia. Of these, six are men.

It's the statistic that has driven The Parks Community Network Operations Manager Mathew Dillon for more than a decade to improve awareness surrounding men's health, suicide and reducing the number of preventable deaths in Fairfield.

It's also the opening line from a new documentary titled Engaging Fairfield.

Funded by Fairfield Council, The Parks Community Network worked with Decibel Productions to produce the nine-minute YouTube video that looks at mental health and suicide with expert opinion and local residents interviewed.

Mr Dillion said the video, which coincides with International Suicide Prevention Month, explores the many reasons and determinates as to why men commit suicide.

"There is still a general ignorance around the subject matter," said Mr Dillon, who previously helped create A Male's Tale - a documentary exploring why men don't seek medical help

"A lot of the money going into suicide prevention at the moment is not taking a male-centric approach and it's not male friendly and they're not developing male friendly policies around suicide.

"They've blanketed it all under mental health, rather than look at the social determinants. All the statistics we look at show that a great portion of those that commit suicide don't have mental health issues."

Mr Dillon said at least one third of the men that commit suicide this year will be fathers and a great portion of those fathers have not seen their children in anything for five to seven years.

A screenshot from the video.

A screenshot from the video.

Another major social factor is when men when they lose their jobs and feel inadequate about supporting their families.

"So these are not mental health issues. These are social determinants, and nobody's talking about those social determinants," Mr Dillon said.

"The other thing nobody's talking about in Fairfield is the stigma attached to talking about mental health issues in multicultural communities.

"There's still great stigma attached to multicultural communities and talking about mental health and those types of subject matters within the home because there's a sense of shame within the family and the community when you do open up and talk about it.

"The other component of that is we lack support services. Now, that's not to say there's no support services, especially for people coming in as refugees, you have SSI and the migrant resource centres - but most of the work they do is centered around the women and children and there's very little support services for men.

"We have an expectation that men come to this country and they will adjust. In fact, men from multicultural backgrounds, have been saying to me: I've lost my place in the house, I don't know who I am."

Mr Dillon said what they tried to achieve through the video is how the community view the subject matter of mental health

What do they know about it? Would they know how to help somebody?

"We found that the younger generation probably has a better understanding about how to deal with it," he said.

"In the men that we spoke to, they might know there's something wrong, but they're not sure what to do about it and males have a bad habit of waiting till it's too late.

"My advice to someone who you suspect going through a hard time is don't be afraid to ask? Don't be afraid any day to ask are you OK?

The Parks Community Network Operations Manager Mathew Dillon and CEO Tairyn Vergara. Picture: Simon Bennett

The Parks Community Network Operations Manager Mathew Dillon and CEO Tairyn Vergara. Picture: Simon Bennett

"I think the reason that we don't ask is, we're in ourselves a bit scared of what the reply might be and that it might trigger within us that we don't know what to do If somebody says actually no, I'm not OK.

"The point is, if somebody says they are not OK, is to be empathetic and to listen. We can't necessarily fix the issue that's going on but if we listen and let them know that we're there and assist them find available services."

Fairfield's suicide prevention network meets monthly and they are looking at planning event to raise awareness of their service.

For Mr Dillion, men's health has always been a passion and he would like to see the issue addressed in a holistic way.

"A important thing is to look at the environment you're engaging man in. Men men don't engage well sitting in an office," he said.

"As an industry we have not been very good at connecting with men. And I don't know whether it's built around that masculinity, that men should be able to take care of themselves, they're strong, they don't get sick and can do things for themselves.

"It highlights the need, that we need to get the information out there to the community and making them aware of the local services that can assist them around the mental health.

"Prospect MP Hugh McDermott has seen the video and asked me to prepare a brief for him so he can bring about a debate in parliament."

Beyondblue, 1300 224 636; Lifeline, 13 11 14; Headspace (for those aged 12-25) 1800 650 890.