Fathers and sons and the silence on suicide

Fathers and sons and the silence on suicide

SBS World News Radio: Males traditionally are deemed hesitant to open up about their feelings, but mental-health organisations are now hoping fathers can lead the way.

Adry Awen's story is an all too common one.

The Sydney youth was 17 years old and suffering from anxiety he describes as consuming.

"Deep down inside, I think I realised that I needed some help, but I was too fearful to acknowledge that openly and honestly with anybody. I was consumed with not only assessments and exams, but I was consumed with a lot of fear."

Statistics show only 13 per cent of young men seek help for their mental health.

That has led the mental-health organisation Headspace to launch its Fathers campaign, hoping to encourage fathers to talk more openly with their sons about mental-health issues.

Headspace chief executive Jason Trethowan says it is not as simple as just making an appointment.

"It's a generational issue. And this is why we're really taking a step back, which is promoting a conversation between two people. And, look, it's okay for mums and dads to have a conversation, but you really can't just say, 'Let's take Person X to the mental-health services to seek help.' They actually have to have their own time to understand what's going on with themselves."

Suicide is the biggest killer of young people in Australia, and young men are at the greater risk.

The 2015 Australian Bureau of Statistics report on causes of death shows young Australian men are three times more likely to commit suicide than young Australian women.

Headspace senior clinician Johnny Kieran says people who feel ashamed about asking for support are only going to feel worse about their situation.

"We know that one in four young people will experience mental illness. We also know that young men are more likely to feel ashamed in asking for support, and what that does, in turn, is exacerbate symptoms of depression and anxiety."

Part of the plan is to work on shedding the so-called macho image, where men do not believe they should talk about their feelings.

For some fathers, that is a learning curve in itself.

Former National Rugby League player Nathan Hindmarsh is a father to four boys, and he has taken a role as a Headspace ambassador for the campaign.

"My idea of having a chat with my sons was, 'Righto, into the bedroom. Close the door. What's going on? What are you doing? Is everything all right?' That type of stuff. And that, for me, after this campaign, is not the right way to do things."

But times have changed.

And Adry Awen, after a talk with his father, did seek help.

Now, he is part of a youth reference group for a Headspace centre in Sydney.


Anyone who wants to talk about the issues discussed in that report can call Headspace on 1800 650 890 or Lifeline on 13 11 14.


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