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SUICIDE RATES MASK MEN AT RISK

Occurrences are falling, but researches are worried about a continuing rise among young to
middle-aged men. Health editor Adam Cresswell reports.
Paragraph 1
As the manager of the national suicide counselling service Mensline Australia, Terry Melvin
is used to being confronted with tense, life-or-death situations. Such as recently when a man
rang the service to talk: when the conversation started he already had a gun in this mouth.
Sadly, this scenario is hardly a one-off. Mensline Australia fields an average of two calls per
day from men with suicidal plans or thoughts and occasionally the men ring when they are in
a position to enact them.
Paragraph 2
Melvin explains that in these cases, the operators may attempt to contact the police and have
the call traced. More than once, police have as a result been able to rush to the scene in the
nick of time and stop the caller taking the drastic last step - one that invariably causes untold
and long-lasting grief to partners, friend and families.
Melvin has also noticed something that is worrying some suicide researchers – a shift in the
age of the men who are now most likely to kill themselves.
Paragraph 3
But first, a step back. Suicide rates were in the headlines in the last 1990s, when the numbers
were rising fast. But now that curve has levelled off, and the latest official figures –
published by the Australian Bureau of Statistics in March – confirmed that the rate is now
gently declining overall. There were 2008 deaths from suicide registered in 2004, the year to
which the latest figures relate – a 5.2 per cent decrease on the figures recorded the previous
year, when there were 2213 recorded suicides. The annual suicide toll rose over 2000 and
2001, but the latest figures mean it has been falling now for the subsequent three years. Some
think this plateau or gentle decline has created a creeping complacency about suicide in
Australia, an idea that it is something we no longer need to worry so much about.
Paragraph 4
But many suicide experts say that idea is a big mistake. “Five men kill themselves every day
in Australia,” says John Macdonald, president of the Australasian Men’s Health Forum and
professor of primary health care at the University of Western Sydney. “If there were five
whales being washed up on a Sydney beach every day, we would be really concerned. You
don’t have to be ‘crazy’ to kill yourself.” Nearly 80 percent of suicides are by men. What is
puzzling or concerning some suicide experts, including Macdonald, is that although the
overall number of suicides has levelled off, this has camouflaged the fact that the rate is
continuing to rise among men aged 25-44.
Paragraph 5
There are a couple of theories as to why this should be so, but one in particular is troubling.
The peak group for suicide used to be boys in late adolescence and young men in their early
20s. With the peak now being seen in men aged 25-44, some suggest this means it is the
same group of people – those born roughly in the 1960s and 1970s – who are continuing to
kill themselves in the greatest numbers. Put another way, what this theory suggests is that the
peak suicide group today is roughly the same group of people who were the peak group a few
years ago, when they were teenagers – it’s just that now they are a bit older and are showing
up in the statistics in a later age bracket. “We have wondered about this for the past four or
fives years,” say Michael Dudley, chairman of Suicide Prevention Australia and senior
lecturer in psychiatry at the University of NSW. “As the suicide figures emerge, you see this
wave effect, and that’s supporting this suggestion that there’s a group of high-risk people
moving through.”
Paragraph 6
Melvin agrees that is one of the theories, and says it fits in the pattern of calls to Mensline
Australia. The services averages about 3800 calls from around the country every month, the
bulk of which he says are from men aged between 29 and 49. “They are often men who are
going through some sort of life change, and often it’s the period of time when the family and
relationships issue rears its head - 45 per cent of our callers are going through separation or
family breakdown,” he says. “We know that particular group are at high risk for self-harm
and suicide.”
Paragraph 7
Of course, it takes two to separate as much as to tango, but the evidence is that marital and
family break-up hits men much harder than it does women. Women are better at maintaining
the all-important extended family and social networks that are crucial in helping individuals
cope with trying circumstances, and are much better at using these net-works to seek advice,
share their concerns or simply find a shoulder to cry on.
Paragraph 8
But there’s another factor too: for men, much more than for women, a relationship break-up
usually means more than losing a partner. It often means losing any children too, at least
between access visits. Dudley thinks this is something that may be exacerbating other aspects
of rapid social change which he says have already resulted in a “loss of anchorage” for many
men as their traditional roles and community supports are eroded. “Men are often separated
from their partners as well as from their children, which is frequently commented on by
men’s consumer groups, who have been very troubled by this and angry>” Dudley says. “I
don’t think we know how much that contributes to the total problem.”
Paragraph 9
But this theory that there is something peculiar about men born in the 1960s and ‘70s that puts
them at a higher risk of suicide remains just that, a theory. And John Macdonald for one is not
yet convinced. He says another – probably more plausible- explanation for the shift in the
ages of those most of risk is not that it’s the same group of people who are now a bit older,
but that there are two distinct problems youth suicide and adult suicide, and we have simply
managed to tackle the first more effectively than the second.
Paragraph 10
As a result, youth suicide rates have gone down, leaving suicides among the older age groups
more noticeable. “It’s much more easy to get national sympathy for youth suicide.” He says.
“ It’s interesting speculation (to suggest a cohort effect)…but that could also be a sign that
there are changes in society that are making men aged 25-44 commit suicide for frequently.”
Paragraph 11
A national forum to discuss some of these issues was held by SPA, Mensline Australia and its
parent body, the Victoria-based Crises Support Services, in Sydney in May. The outcome of
that meeting – a 25 page “Blueprint for the future” – was launched last weekend to coincide
with Suicide Awareness Day. The document aims to create a “national vision” for tacking
male suicide, and boldly sets a goal of removing suicide as a health risk for men within one
generation.
Paragraph 12
Dudley concedes changing ingrained notions of what it means to be a man - which for some
men makes it difficult for them to confront their emotional needs, let alone discuss then with
others – are not straightforward. But there are already specific measures in train. We have
undertaken to sit down with workplace groups like the construction industry and talk with
them about how we engage not only apprentices, but also managers, to have a workforce
that’s observant not only to occupational health and safety matters, but also provides a safer
environment for people overall.”
The idea, he says is to encourage workplaces “where it’s okay to get help, where people are
not black-marked for getting help. We have to change the way blokes and their needs are
seen. Men have emotions too- men can cry, and men have stuff they need to process. It’s
important not only for them individually, but it’s likely to lead to better productivity and less
time off.”
Source: The Weekend Australian
OET reading style questions
Suicide rates mask men at risk
1. The scenario described in the last sentence of paragraph 1
a) happened only once
b) happens occasionally
c) is common
d) is rare

2. Which of the following statements is true


a) The number of people who committed suicide started to decrease at the end of the
1990s
b) There were more deaths in 2001 than in 2000
c) There were more deaths in 2000 than in 2001
d) Since 2001 the suicide rate has remained stable

3. We can infer from John Macdonald’s words in paragraph 4 that


a) Whales dieing on Sydney’s beaches is a regular occurrence
b) Most of the people who kill themselves are crazy
c) People should be more concerned about the suicide problem
d) In Australia 5 people kill themselves everyday

4. In paragraph 5 the suicide statistics indicate that


a) Men born in the 1960s & 1970s have the highest rate of suicide
b) The age group most likely to commit suicide is young people in their twenties
c) Teenagers are least likely to commit suicide
d) Older people are more likely to commit suicide

5. We can infer from the article that


a) Family breakdown is a major cause of suicide among men
b) Men are less likely to find support than women
c) Men often lose more than women if a relationship breaks-up
d) all of the above
6. John Macdonald
a) accepts the proposed theory is true
b) has a different theory to explain the suicide rate
c) committed suicide last year
d) none of the above
7. We can understand from paragraph 12 that
a) the suicide problem relates to men’s inability to express their feelings
b) suicide is related to workplace conditions
c) men need to cry more often
d) it will take more than one generation to solve the problem

Post reading vocabulary


Find the vocabulary listed below in the article then use your dictionary or the
website: http://www.ldoceonline.com/ to find out what the word or expression
means.

1. something is a one off


2. to arrive in the nick of time
3. to be complacent about something
4. the problem is exacerbated
5. loss of anchorage
6. to be plausible
7. ingrained notions
Suicide Rates Answer Sheet

Question 1
a) Incorrect:
b) Correct: Sadly, this scenario is hardly a one-off
c) Incorrect:
d) Incorrect

Question 2
a) Incorrect:
b) Correct: The annual suicide toll rose over 2000 and 2001
c) Incorrect
d) Incorrect

Question 3
a) Incorrect:
b) Incorrect:
c) Correct: Logical inference
d) Incorrect:

Question 4
a) Correct: those born roughly in the 1960s and 1970s – who are continuing to kill themselves in the greatest numbers
b) Incorrect:
c) Incorrect
d) Incorrect:

Question 5
a) Incorrect: True: 45 per cent of our callers are going through separation or family breakdown,” he says. “We know that
particular group are at high risk for self-harm and suicide.”
b) Incorrect: True: Women are better at maintaining the all-important extended family and social networks that are crucial in
helping individuals cope with trying circumstances
c) Incorrect True: for men, much more than for women, a relationship break-up usually means more than losing a partner. It
often means losing any children too
d) Correct: All of the above

Question 6
a) Incorrect
b) Correct: And John Macdonald for one is not yet convinced. He says another – probably more plausible-
explanation for the shift
c) Incorrect:
d) Incorrect

Question 7
a) Correct: for some men makes it difficult for them to confront their emotional needs, let alone discuss then with
others – are not straightforward
b) Incorrect
c) Incorrect
d) Incorrect: