Triple M presenter Gus Worland lost his best mate, Angus, to suicide in 2006.
Angus was the life of the party. A father figure and role model to Worland, Angus was his go-to guy whenever he needed advice be it relationships or his next career move.
“I just couldn’t believe someone like him could take his own life. In fact, I asked the police to check if there was anything slightly suspicious,” Worland told The Huffington Post Australia.
It took Worland nine years to fully come to terms with his death. To cope with his grief, he would visit Narrabeen Headland where he’d yell out to Angus, screaming at him in anger for leaving him and so many people he loved behind.
The same lookout point is the setting for the opening scene of ABC’s new documentary series “Man Up” which follows Worland’s mission to kickstart a conversation about male suicide in Australia…
Associate Professor of Psychiatry Steve Ellen had reservations: Man Up: inspired genius or half-bakedcelebrity expertise?
It’s done from the perspective of a quintessential Aussie bloke – Gus Worland – one of three male co-hosts on the Grill Team, a Sydney morning radio show that’s more blokey than football, meat pies and Holdens…
My first impressions of the show were not good. It annoyed me: another celebrity telling the experts how to suck eggs. Did decades of research and clinical experience count for nothing? Could a radio broadcaster with a microphone walk into the room and tell everyone what they were doing wrong?
I’m a big fan of people who have actually experienced mental illness adding their voice and knowledge – but a guy from the Grill Team – surely not?…
There are some flaws in Man Up. For starters, there are few female voices. The show is unashamedly male oriented – it’s about understanding why men suicide, from a mostly male perspective. At times it feels hollow. Given Worland presents the view that Australian men, as distinct from women, are emotionally barren, more opinion from those who do express emotions would have helped…
I am reminded however, that people like me (psychiatrists) are often criticised for boring everyone senseless with our endless inclusion of all the known facts to the point where the basic message is lost. Worland’s simplicity and direct approach might be just what’s needed to tackle the hidden epidemic of suicide lurking in our society.
Overall, Man Up is well worth watching. It’s both a TV show and an experiment – a description of the problem of male stoicism, and an attempt to change it. It is narrow in its focus, but it’s a true insiders view – Worland is about as Aussie as you can get and has a refreshing, honest and genuine approach.
Also, a team of scientists are sitting behind the scenes doing the research to see if this approach works. It’s nice to know that in world where opinion seems to trump evidence, there are still people who back up their ideas with science. I liked that it’s a curious mix of celebrity, culture and science.
Professor Ellen refers in particular to one long segment in the episode we saw last night:
There is a particularly poignant part, in episode two (which airs tonight), where he visits his son’s school to watch a seminar on emotions. The boys do a series of exercises to build their comfort around expressing feelings. It ends with some surprising revelations. I think even the hardest of men will shed a tear during this part. (I shed more than a few!)
Steve Worland himself wrote:
First up this week, one of the best school lessons I’ve ever had. Tom Harkin runs workshops for young men in schools all around the country, and he’s incredible. He challenges the boys to talk about masculinity and what it means to be a man. Frankly anyone who will take on a bunch of 16 year old boys has my vote.
At the beginning, the boys were mucking around and weren’t convinced about the workshop. But as Tom wove his magic, there were these incredibly honest responses from the boys, showing bravery they didn’t know they had. They all said they had cried recently but they knew ‘the rules’ were that they should hide their crying and “not get caught crying”.
I wish there were a thousand Tom Harkins going out and talking to our young blokes. His message is that men need to open up our emotions and maybe this is the age where we can really make a change. By the end of the day there were tears and the most utmost respect in the room. I was blown away and the most special thing of all for me was that my son Jack who (unlike his dad) is quite a reserved boy said he felt the day had changed his life. That’s a day to treasure.
Visit Tom Harkins’s site. Read ‘Bloke whisperer’ challenges what it means to be an Aussie man and Cassie White’s feature Boys Don’t Cry: young men and suicide. On that last one a commenter wrote:
I was disappointed that the article did not include the issues of sexual identity as part of the issue, nor add some of the gay/gender specific help services. My understanding is that a significant proportion of young male suicides in Australia can be related to this particular issue. In some Indigenous communities it is almost endemic.
See also my post 14 September 1989 and related memories.
That’s from the current edition of Face the facts: Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, Trans and Intersex People which miraculously still exists, though there would be those who surely would rather it didn’t. Kudos to the Australian Human Rights Commission, I say!
The issue of LGBTI youth and suicide was not addressed in Man Up, but it could hardly address everything and there is no doubt that by extension what it did show, especially in that school episode, was quite relevant. I was indeed rather surprised to find that the first AUSTRALIAN study of GLBTI youth suicide was begun in 2014:
Suicide rates amongst lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender and intersex people are being investigated in Australia for the first time, researchers say.
The Australian Institute for Suicide Research and Prevention (AISRAP) at Griffith University is conducting the study on behalf of Beyond Blue.
It was prompted by documented high rates of non-fatal suicide attempts amongst LGBTI people and is investigating if they constitute a unique risk-group.
AISRAP researcher Dr Delaney Skerrett says it’s the first time a study has been done on fatal suicidal behaviour amongst the LGBTI population in Australia.
“You get a lot of research done on the non-fatal behaviours, suicide attempts, thoughts about suicide,” he said.
“But it’s a lot harder to do the research on people who have actually died because often that kind of information isn’t recorded when people die, that they were actually LGBTI.”…
See an excellent piece in The Conversation: Preventing suicide among gender and sexual minorities. And resist the pushbacks emanating from reactionaries of various stripes. See my post Show some backbone, PM:
See also Max Chalmers, The Anti-Gay Emails To MPs: Safe Schools Program Will ‘Destroy Civilisation’, Safe Schools: Education or social engineering?, Safe Schools: Malcolm Turnbull requests investigation into program helping LGBTI students, Jill Stark, Safe Schools program: why zealots are trying to drag us back to the dark ages…
Now I am such a Marxist, eh! Why only a couple of days ago on this blog I was commending Robert Service’s Comrades: A World History of Communism (2007) to my readers! A Marxist I really am not, but I do embrace diversity as a core aspect of the human condition and commend any society or program that does the same. Hence on Twitter I wrote yesterday: “I totally support #safeschools.” I also retweeted: “RT @JoshThomas87:.@TurnbullMalcolm You’re turning out to be a real shit bloke.” Among others.
First, a really really good idea is to read the actual stuff that Safe Schools offers…