Watch. Listen. Ask. The Problematising of Men in Mental Health and Suicide Prevention ©Indigenist
I’ve been working in health and human service provision for a while now. The last three years I’ve been working across the North-West of Australia, the Kimberely. I travelled 35,000km in my first 18 months delivering upstream suicide prevention, conversation and consultation and the Aboriginal Mental Health First Aid.
During my career if there is one thing that bugs me is the problematising of men. It has been so ingrained that “men don’t talk”, most people aren’t even listening. Least of all listen with the intent to understand. Most often they are listening with the intent to reply or to “fix”.
Men account for three out of every five deaths by suicide, making suicide the 10th leading cause of death for males.
In Australia, for those of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander descent, the suicide rate is 2.5 times higher.
In the UK Suicide is the biggest killer of men under 50.
If men aren’t accessing your mental health service and they really should be (see stats above) you’re not doing it right.
You’re a hard to reach service. Period.
It was recently passed onto me the teachings of Davey Lawrence an Aboriginal Elder of the Girramay peoples; “you have to listen to what a person does – not what they say”.
I reckon that’s pretty sound advice.
Here’s what I suggest you do.
Watch men. Watch how they are behaving. See their emotions in their behaviours.
Listen to men. Listen to what they are saying, not what you are wanting or expecting to them to say.
Ask men if things are ok. If you’ve gotten to this step there’s a pretty good chance that something is up. In their response whether it is yes or no, watch and listen to what they say. If they’ve said yes, let them guide you on how you can best support them.
Now this isn’t literal. Verbal communication isn’t the only way men communicate. So trust yourself and your instincts. If you’re wrong there is a good chance you’ll be told. If they say no, that nothing is up still trust your instincts. Because if you’ve been watching and listening you’re going to be pretty much on the money. So continue to Watch, Listen and Ask.
The most important thing for anyone is to know you don’t have to through it alone. Men are no different.