Suicide is a much bigger problem, especially for men
Despite the evidence that DV is not overwhelmingly perpetrated by men (especially child abuse), media and political attention is completely focussed on women DV victims, and seems afraid to even mention "men's rights" or the much bigger problem of suicide, which affects men to a much greater extent. Suicide is the leading cause of death for 15-44 year-old Australians, totalling 3,027 suicides in 2015 (8 every day, and an estimated 100,000 attempts p.a.), 75% of whom are men. With each death costing at least $2.5 million, the annual cost to the nation is over $7.5 billion. Worse, although suicide statistics seemed to show a steady decline over the decade to 2006, improved data gathering since then has revealed Australian suicides increasing to an alarming rate for men in 2017 that is similar to per capita rates in the USA and nearly double that of the UK (where annual suicides reduced by a third since 1985, to 10 per 100,000 males, although UK suicide rates have increased since introducing improved recording in 2018).
The dominance of men amongst suicides indicates more attention is needed on male-oriented suicide prevention responses that address the current “feminisation of mental health services” (as this challenging video also argues). But despite the potential for preventative investments to deliver social benefits of about $8 for every dollar invested, in 2016 the Australian Government invested only $18 million in suicide prevention, which is less than half what is spent addressing half the number of people killed on roads, and is dwarfed by the hundreds of millions of dollars being spent annually by Federal and State governments on measures to address domestic violence against women, which as the following chart shows is a much smaller problem in terms of the most extreme outcome of death. Yet since 2020 the ABS have obscured the glaring difference in male and female suicide rates, and in 2021, the Australian Government announced a $3.4 billion Women’s Budget, including $536m for the "National Women’s Health Strategy", but nothing for men's health — though this got a huge boost to $1m in 2022!
The light bars in the following chart (from "DV & deaths & suicides.xls", using 2015 ABS suicide data and 2016 DV death estimates by perpetrator gender obtained from here & here) show that the life-years lost (assuming the deceased would otherwise live to a typical life expectancy) from suicide vastly exceeds that due to DV killings (note using life-years avoids distorting the comparison with the significant number of suicides by people over 80). The red bars replot DV killings only (excluding suicides) against the bigger scale on the left and show that whilst women killed by men are the single biggest category in DV killings, the lost life-years for men, children & other women killed by women are still very significant and in total exceed that for women killed by men (and perhaps should be given even higher priority if we place greater importance on avoiding life-years lost by children). On average, over 40 men suicide every week, whilst somewhat less than one woman a week is killed by a man in a domestic context.
DV homicides are much lower and more variable than suicides
Note that there is significant variation & statistical uncertainty in DV-related deaths, given the number of women killed by men (38) and men killed by women (19) in the graph above (for all of Australia) are relatively low numbers that rely on data for just one year (2016), but the relative balance of 2:1 for female:male deaths is actually less than the 1.4:1 ratio over the 12 years to 30 June 2012 from the NSW Coroners Court Domestic-Violence Review Team, which records 59% or 164 females out of 280 homicide victims killed in a domestic violence context. Of these 280 DV victims in NSW, 165 (59%) were killed by a current or former intimate partner, with 129 of these 165 (78%) being women, all killed by men, and 36 being men, including 31 killed by a woman (so whilst a high proportion of victims killed by partners are women, a broader scope of DV includes relatively more male deaths). Scaling this data according to NSW's share of Australia's population (32%) gives estimated national annual rates of about 43 women killed by men (0.83 per week) and 30 men killed by women in a "domestic" context (compared to 38 & 19 used in the graph for 2016), with 34 women & 9 men killed by partners, which is (stop press, June 2018) broadly in line with data in the first national report by the Australian Domestic and Family Violence Death Review Network, which reports 152 intimate-partner homicides over the 4 years between June 2010 and 2014 of which nearly 80% (30 p.a. or roughly one a fortnight) were women killed by a current or former male partner, with 8 being men killed by their partner. This typical level & variability of around 30-40 p.a. women killed by male partners seems consistent with the data in "DV & deaths & suicides.xls" ("homicides" sheet), which shows common variations in total annual femicides of +/-15 (from an average level of 96 p.a. over the 12 years to 2013-14), which, given 40% are classified as DV, suggests typical annual variations of over +/-6 (40% x 15) in women murdered in a DV context and +/-4 in the number of women killed by partners (these femicide subsets will actually have relatively higher variability but estimating this is constrained by the categories of domestic, acquaintance & stranger homicides not being split by the victim's gender). Similarly, data for the three years 2014 to 2016 shows a total of 78 femicides p.a., which is broadly consistent with normal variations of 96 +/-15, and despite recent claims of an "epidemic", femicides for 2018, totalling 55 in October, seem on track to be below average for the year (the chances of 7 murders in a week are very small, so it seems like an epidemic when it happens, but – as I calculate in "DV & deaths & suicides.xls" – as the years go by it becomes more and more likely that such an unusually tragic week will unfold — with a roughly 1-in-5 chance over 10 years, I estimate).
Systemic & societal influences on suicide and DV
Whilst nearly one woman is killed by a man in a domestic context every week in Australia (of which 20-40 women p.a. killed by their current or former male partners), at least one man also suicides every week (50-100+ p.a.) as a result of child custody battles, including those due to parental-alienation caused by the mother (estimates vary from 1-2 suicides per week plus about 10 more suicides resulting from separation issues in general or about 7 per week based on 18% of male suicides attributed to Child Support pressures reported in the Australian "Dad" documentary, but it's probably not as many as 21 per week). Other work attributes 21% of UK male suicides to the Child Support/Maintenance Service (see more via here & here on the injustices of "Child Support").
The following chart (of ABS/Australian Institute of Health & Welfare data, via here) shows the rapid rise in male suicides since the introduction of the Family Law Act in 1975 and the CSA in the late 1980s (whilst the rate of female suicides per capita has declined). As court delays & dysfunction have increased dramatically in recent years, the suicide rate amongst men aged 45-49 jumped by a massive 44% to 259 deaths in 2017 (with suicides of men in their 40s increasing 25% to 502 deaths and total male suicides increasing nearly 10% on the prior year and all suicides reaching 3,128 (6 men & 2 women a day), which at 12.7 per 100,000 people was 15% higher per capita than a decade earlier). ln 2019 male suicides climbed to 7 out of 9 a day.
Compared to NSW, Victoria and the ACT, other areas of Australia have suicide rates that are 30-50% higher, and 2.4 times higher for women in the Northern Territory (in 2017). These differences are likely to be strongly influenced by economic & cultural factors, and the relative number of Aboriginal people. Aboriginal populations generally experience poorer social outcomes; for example, although homicide rates (as a proportion of population) have reduced by a factor of three over the last few decades, they still remain several times higher than for non-Aboriginals (see "DV & deaths & suicides.xls") and indigenous people were 32 times more likely to be hospitalised for family violence than non-indigenous people in 2016–17. Aboriginal suicide rates are similarly higher – comprising about 6% of all suicides despite indigenous people being only around 3% of Australia's population – and, shockingly, 80% of child suicides aged 12 and below and nearly 30% of child suicides to age 17 are Aboriginal, and these rates appear to be increasing (reported as constituting half of all First Nations deaths under 18 in 2019, although the ABS indicates 27% in 2022). Indigenous youth are dying by suicide at EIGHT times the rate of non-Indigenous children, despite Government funding on Indigenous suicide prevention that equates to about $0.25m per suicide (excluding State funding), but mental-health risk factors aren't being assessed and programs aren't being evaluated for evidence of effectiveness. If money is not the problem, it seems to me that what's needed more is greater attention to the problem (people's time) from politicians, bureaucrats and quality social researchers.
As might be expected, the highest rates of indigenous suicide per capita are in Australia’s "top end" and other remote areas, but 75% of all indigenous suicides are in Australia’s capital cities and large regional towns. Primary factors contributing to indigenous suicides are incarceration, poor education and acute poverty (with 40% of First Nations Australians living below the poverty line, compared to 14% of all Australians). In the first 5 months of 2019, 76 of the 79 indigenous people who suicided were living below the poverty line, with 73 living in social housing and three homeless. These conditions combine with inter-generational trauma, so nearly two-thirds of indigenous suicides were victims of DV, whilst a third of indigenous children who suicided were victims of sexual abuse. Alcohol abuse also has devastating impacts: after the repeal of Aboriginal-specific alcohol prohibition in the 1960s, alcohol‐related homicide & suicide escalated and alcohol‐related convictions among Aboriginal people increased dramatically. Now those dying from alcohol‐attributable causes have an average age at death of 35 years and indigenous offenders are nearly three times more likely than non-indigenous offenders to be intoxicated when they commit their crimes, but attempts to restrict alcohol again are naturally highly politicised for being racist.
Possibly a better approach – given all societies seems to need some sort of drug for people to cope with life (especially poorer people with more difficult lives) – could be to legalise substitute drugs like cannabis, which is more popular with and may better suit Aboriginal people, but currently contributes to their greater rates of arrest & incarceration (possibly because frequent apprehensions reduce Police discretion). This could form part of a broader strategy for decriminalising drugs, which delivered dramatic public health benefits in Portugal, and is now also being pursued in Norway.
Suicide research and prevention gets little attention
Yet despite the appalling levels of suicide in society, very little effort is put into suicide research and prevention. There seems to be no data or research available at Australia's "peak body for suicide prevention", Suicide Prevention Australia, and the one research paper I found at "Living Is For Everyone.com.au" (LIFE — supposedly the "go-to" place for Australian suicide policy guidance & research, when I looked in 2017) only has analysis of small data sets with a few hundred cases (see Figures A1 & A2 in Appendix A) and fails to distinguish between "symptoms" or coping mechanisms (such as depression or other "mental health" issues, or drug use/addiction) and causal factors — which appear to be overwhelmingly relationship/family/court matters, and to a lesser extent financial problems (90% of US white male suicides are in lower socioeconomic classes) and physical health issues (which probably relate to suicides of the eldest people, resulting in relatively few life-years lost). Attributing suicide to "mental health" & coping mechanisms seems to be society's way of saying, "You've got a problem (caused by / to be treated with drugs); it's not our problem", when actually these are symptoms of personal/relationship problems and an uncaring society that fails to help (which one could thus say is the cause of most suicides). In fact, contrary to the notion of being "mentally ill", the motivation for suicide is often based on quite realistic beliefs and logic.
Gay people – especially men – are at least twice as likely and perhaps several times more likely to attempt suicide than heterosexuals, whilst transgender people are at least 20 times more at risk (even after sex-change treatment).
Other research indicates that an estimated 400 Australians with gambling-related problems commit suicide every year (more than one a day & 13% of total suicides), some of whom presumably turn to gambling in desperation because of other life problems.
Although mental illness & depression is indeed a significant factor, it's not the primary issue for the majority of male suicides, and is less so than for women, who self-harm & attempt suicide at far greater rates than men (although new research suggests male suicide attempts could be much higher than previously thought and similar to that for women). Australian research indicates that male suicides are more commonly linked to a range of distressing life events such as relationship separation (28.3%); financial problems (17%); relationship conflict (15.7%); bereavement (12.3%); recent or pending unemployment (10.5%); familial conflict (9.5%) and pending legal matters (9.0%). Given legal matters will include family court, this gives a total of some 60% of male suicides related to relationship problems (and of course good relationships can also help you get through other problems) — an estimate that is supported by initial 2019 research by Griffith University, Queensland and by US research, which also found that only about a third of men who suicided had a history of mental illness. Further research from Queensland in 2020 found relationship difficulties triggered 42.5 % of all suicides (male & female) and that 42% of men who die by suicide have a mental health diagnosis but 98% have experienced a recent life event, such as relationship breakdown.
In 2020, the ABS started recording suicide risk factors that include relationship issues, and of the males aged 25-44 who suicided in 2022, 36.1% had "problems in spousal relationship circumstances", 10.6% had "problems in relationships with family and friends" and 17.2% had "problems related to legal circumstances" (total 63.9%). This initiative followed a 2019 pilot study of 2017 data (after I first wrote this section in June 2017; prior to that they only listed diagnosable health/mental health factors), which identified the top potential causal factors for males & females (combined, totalling 55.6%) as "Disruption of family by separation and divorce" (18.6%) and "Problems in relationship with spouse or partner" (14.5%) – which are both missing as separate items from ongoing data categories – followed by legal circumstances (11.6%) and then "Disappearance or death of family member (or primary support group)" (10.9%), which in ongoing data excludes "disappearance" (such as the loss of a child through Parental Alienation).
Clearly an immediate priority should be gathering & analysing improved data on the background situation of all suicide cases (e.g. using advanced "machine-learning" techniques for identifying patterns in free-text fields), in order to better identify & help people at high risk of suicide (which latest AI systems can already do with an accuracy of over 90%). Sadly it wouldn't take long to obtain quite a reasonable sized data set (NB. this means gathering much more detailed information than the ABS started publishing in 2020). Also, although it's often said that suicide is higher amongst men because men don't open up to others (& there may be some partial truth in that, but we should avoid labelling it "toxic masculinity"), the important issue is that men need different suicide-prevention approaches to women that appeal to men's strengths and style. And support services need to be evidence-based, because a study of 415 previously suicidal Australian men found that after taking other factors into account, conformity to masculine norms was not a significant predictor of seeking mental health services.
So what is the response from UK feminists, with the support of The Guardian? A campaign to count and further investigate the suicides of women subject to domestic abuse, with no apparent interest in male victims! It seems the threshold issue is that society isn't willing to listen & show sympathy or acknowledge any validity in men's experiences — not least in this sort of contemptible, extreme misandric response from mainstream-media feminists when men do try to be heard. Men who suicide during times of separation, divorce & custody battles are even accused of doing so in order "to punish women who they felt had wronged them", and it's argued that rather than police choosing a health system pathway for men at risk of suicide, they should instead be treated as DV perpetrators.
Alternatively, if men keep quiet and stoic then they're told by the mainstream media and feminists that their problems are basically their fault as a consequence of patriarchy & “toxic masculinity" making them reluctant to discuss emotions (i.e. not being more like women — see masculinity discussion here), yet if they do complain or show negative emotions about the injustices they're subjected to, or try to make a positive point about masculinity and highlight the distorted view of men that is being presented by the media (for profit), then they are labelled a “pathetic, petulant, whiny man-baby” (suffering "fragile masculinity"). And of course if men get angry at such responses, well that just proves masculinity is inherently toxic! It seems some feminists only show sympathy for others if the issue fits their ideology. Worse still, Western feminist culture commonly seems to consider it fun to show contempt for men or be violent towards them - hypocritically laughing at such attacks in literally the next breath after virtue-signalling angst about violence against women. The stark lack of compassion for male suicides from many feminists is also evident in a number of articles listed here. Moreover, even if men turn to a psychologist for counselling support, there's a fair chance – thanks to the insidious spread of feminist ideology – that they'll again be told their problems are due to their own misogyny and need for patriarchal power.
But why does society more broadly seem not to care about this huge, hidden issue of suicide? Simple - because it's deliberately treated as something we shouldn't talk about (or dramatise, as the fuss about "Thirteen Reasons Why" showed), with even NGOs working in this area telling the media not to report suicides (or at least, not the place & methods used), because analysis shows this triggers an increase in suicides (presumably by prompting those already considering it to go ahead). But this is a big mistake. Firstly it reinforces the unmentionable nature of the subject, which only adds to the shame that discourages suicidal people from talking to others. But most importantly, by hiding it from public view, it falls out of political consciousness, which is precisely why the resources devoted to the problem are so low, relative to DV or road deaths. So for the last few decades, the rate of homicides and road fatalities has been falling, whilst suicides have continued to climb.
I wish the media would present suicide news in a calm, objective way, that readers & voters would be most interested in such reports, and would respond logically rather than emotionally, and that governments would just do the right thing in terms of how they allocate resources — but they don't, and as Einstein supposedly said, "The definition of insanity is doing the same thing over and over and expecting different results". It's time we tried something else, and though it may sound brutally rational, I've no doubt that a good military commander faced with this problem would choose to accept short-term casualties in order to win the bigger war — so I say the media should start reporting suicides in whatever way they think will get most reader attention, as this seems the only way to ensure the issue gets the political attention and resourcing it needs (although that said, the Australian Government has now finally recognised the need to act on this issue, and hopefully will back that up with resourcing once they understand it better, which a "new monitoring system" established by the NSW Government should help with).
NEXT: Reforms & initiatives