The time has come to re-evaluate the way we approach suicide awareness and prevention! This is the challenge issued in a recent paper delivered by the Australian Institute of Male Health Studies and Western Sydney University. Renowned advocates for Men’s Health Dr John Ashfield, Professor John Macdonald and Anthony Smith propose that a significant paradigm shift is needed in order to realise a more effective national suicide prevention strategy. They argue that a ‘situational approach’ is required, one that acknowledges the more predominant association of situational distress with suicide, as opposed to the current focus on mental illness. This is precisely what we advocate at RMHI.

None of us are immune to the feelings associated with being overwhelmed and challenged by specific events in our lives. These normal life ‘situations’ such as bereavement or relationship breakdown can impact greatly on our mental and emotional wellbeing. It is at these times, when we are able to draw on our innate resilience as human beings, and to see the best in others when we connect with them for support. The concern is that too often the distress we feel in certain situations aligns with symptoms that are often used to identify a mental illness such as depression. There is no doubt that depression can be a debilitating illness with associations for increased risk of suicide but it has gone from being a condition of relative obscurity to an apparent major social dilemma. The authors take this a step further and argue that ‘the current mental health narrative has been allowed to encircle, medicalise and redefine as pathological many of our common human experiences’ (Ashfield, Macdonald and Smith).

The paper’s central argument is that when it comes to suicide prevention most initiatives are preoccupied with the identification of mental illness. Instead, we need to be considering all forms of life stressors and the associated experience of distress which doesn’t necessarily embody a diagnosable mental illness but can result in suicidal behaviour. They argue that many suicides are connected to situational distress often involving issues such as unemployment, financial problems and conflict, the signs of which may be missed if we adhere to a purely mental illness agenda. We need to be looking at situational distress and how it influences the individual’s perspective.

As long as the suicide focus remains mostly on mental illness people will continue to view this problem as that of a professional’s domain. Whilst tertiary services are very important their focus is on people with high intensity mental health difficulties and the associated risk issues. At RMHI we strongly support the shift to a more situational approach to suicide awareness because it promotes development of initiatives that advocate capacity building in individuals and their communities, early intervention and a primary care focus, that is ordinary people looking out for each other.

Brenden and the Team

The Regional Men’s Health Initiative
delivered by Wheatbelt Men’s Health (Inc.)        
PO Box 768, Northam WA 6401            
Phone: 08 9690 2277                
Email: This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.
www.regionalmenshealth.com.au


   

Listening is a vital part of communication and often we may be accused of not listening. While hearing is an involuntary, physical act, listening requires much more. Basically it is hearing and combining psychological involvement with the person who is talking. True listening requires concentration and energy, setting aside our own thoughts and agendas and also not making judgements or evaluations.

Effective listening involves the following:-

  1. VERBAL MESSAGERS – attention to the words used
  2. PARAVERBAL MESSAGERS- attention to how they are said
  3. NONVERBAL MESSAGES-the body language of the speaker.

Some basic principles for effective listening that will help the speaker feel listened to:

  • Stop talking - don’t talk, listen to what they are saying, do not interrupt, talk over them or finish their sentences for them. Men in particular are fixers, we want to jump in with our best solutions when all that is wanted is for us to just listen.
  • Prepare to listen - clearing your mind of all the other thoughts that can easily distract you helps to concentrate on the speaker.
  • Encourage the speaker - nodding, maintaining eye contact (without staring) or words helps the speaker to feel at ease and encourages them to continue and shows you are interested.
  • Focus - remove distractions like TV or other noises. A relaxed environment will help.
  • Empathise - be open minded. Let go of preconceived ideas which helps to empathise with the speaker. Acknowledge a different point of view using statements like “I can understand how you may feel that way but this is how I feel about ……”
  • Patience - allow the speaker to formulate what it is they want to say. A pause of any length doesn’t mean the speaker has finished. Sometimes they may be having difficulty expressing their thoughts. Let them continue in their own time without interrupting.
  • Avoid prejudice - it can be easy to become irritated by the persons mannerisms like stuttering, accent, constant fidgeting or pacing while talking. Everyone has a different way of speaking. Concentrate on what is being said and try to ignore the style of delivery.
  • Be reflective – re-stating the speaker’s words into your own words seeks to clarify what was said and also shows you are listening and are interested. Reflecting how they may be feeling also does the same ie. “I can see you are frustrated about………” Summarizing the conversation in your own words.
  • Watch for the non-verbals - noticing inconsistencies between the verbal and non-verbal messages. Body language can reveal more than words, you may be listening to someone articulating that all is well but his body language of gritted teeth or tears welling in his eyes tells a different story.

When people talk, listen completely. Sometimes just listening effectively is what is required without jumping in to solve a problem.

Tim and the Team

The Regional Men’s Health Initiative
delivered by Wheatbelt Men’s Health (Inc.)        
PO Box 768, Northam WA 6401            
Phone: 08 9690 2277                
Email: This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.
www.regionalmenshealth.com.au


   

Last week my 8 year old son participated in his first school swimming carnival, and ended up winning his first ever medal for “champion boy” in his age. Unfortunately I was away on a work trip, and of course when I spoke to the family that evening my son was the first on the end of the phone to tell me proudly of his achievement (he doubted himself and never expected to win). This recognition for effort has been amazing for his confidence and I have even noticed a positive change in his motivation towards other extra-curricular activities that had previously challenged his confidence.

A field known as “positive psychology” (focusing on one’s strengths) has come up with findings that this aids in increasing wisdom, satisfaction and a sense of purpose. It’s common sense really, how good do we feel when someone tells us we have done a good job?

There are three main areas where we can have a direct influence and use some “positive psychology” that is; in our family lives, in and around our working lives, in our community groups (sport clubs, rotary/men’s shed, church groups).

To do this effectively we have to always maintain our own good mental health and wellbeing and a definition which encapsulates this is summarised by the World Health Organisation (2007) - “a state of wellbeing in which an individual realises his or her own abilities, can cope with the normal stresses of life, can work productively and is able to make a contribution to his or her community”.

The interesting thing is that it’s almost a social and personal expectation to continually commit ourselves to our family, working, and community lives, and rightly so. These are all important areas and putting time and effort in gives us satisfaction.

Getting the balance right however between these three commitments, is tough, especially when “expectations” are not understood. In the work we do we come across a lot of misunderstanding and distress caused by individuals not communicating what their expectations are. For example a husband and wife discussing personal vs relationship expectations, a parent and teenager discussing boundaries, a boss and staff member discussing working conditions/priorities, and/or a footy coach discussing positions/roles within his team.

High expectations can be positive, it can help us grow as individuals and/or as a collective, reach achievements and hit our goals. However, many of us can also take this too far. We can easily become cynical of ourselves and others, especially when it comes to making mistakes. Shaming and blaming doesn’t help! Look for the strengths in others and yourself and don’t forget to give credit where credit is due.

Terry and the Team

The Regional Men’s Health Initiative
delivered by Wheatbelt Men’s Health (Inc.)        
PO Box 768, Northam WA 6401            
Phone: 08 9690 2277                
Email: This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.
www.regionalmenshealth.com.au


   

 To celebrate and recognise those in regional WA who contribute to blokes health and wellbeing!

   


 

We often talk to blokes about the importance of visiting their GP for a routine service visit or ‘check-up’ regardless of whether they feel unwell or not. These visits help you to stay health aware and if you do have particular risk factors, such as a family history of a certain disease, then regular check-ups may help your doctor pick up early warning signs. For example, high blood pressure may be an early warning sign of cardiovascular disease. I recently had my check up and I guess having a medical background puts me at a bit of an advantage when it comes to this sort of stuff, but for a lot of blokes it can be a bit of a daunting and at times confusing process.

First and foremost I think there are a lot of benefits in having a regular doctor and practice that you visit. This gives you the opportunity to build a relationship over time, to the point where you are more comfortable talking openly about things. Your doctor gets to know you and will have a better understanding of your health needs and concerns. Your medical history also stays under the one roof making it easier to keep things up to date.

With the average GP consultation time being around 10 to 15 minutes it’s important that you have a fairly clear idea of what you want to talk about (write a check list starting with the most concerning issue). Usually for two or more health issues you will need to book a longer consultation time. Be prepared! For a general health check, your doctor will want to talk to you about a range of stuff including your medical history, your family’s history, your lifestyle, diet, weight and how much you exercise. Be honest about your health and your concerns and most of all, don’t worry too much about being embarrassed. Doctors are usually very difficult people to shock and more than likely have seen or heard it all before.

We all need to take responsibility for our own health and wellbeing. A lot of guys I talk to have no idea of what their blood pressure is normally or what it means for that matter. Get to know your normal parameters and other things like your cholesterol and PSA (Prostate specific antigen) blood tests so you can engage in conversation with your GP about them. It often helps to keep your own record of results and a list of any medications you may be on and what they are for.

As we get older we inevitably encounter the increased risk of developing particular health issues such as prostate issues (over 45 years). Most GPs are pretty good at prompting us when needed but we still need to be an active participant. Don’t feel intimidated, you have the right to request certain tests and question things the doctor suggests. After all, this is about you and your GP working together.

So when visiting your GP be prepared (take a checklist) and be involved, it’s your health, you are the expert on you.

Brenden and the Team

The Regional Men’s Health Initiative
delivered by Wheatbelt Men’s Health (Inc.)        
PO Box 768, Northam WA 6401            
Phone: 08 9690 2277                
Email: This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.
www.regionalmenshealth.com.au