I really hate it when ventures I wholeheartedly support in principle get oversold on dodgy statistics.
The only men’s health facility of its kind in western Sydney, it was formed by the Department of Health and Aging three years ago to reduce the suicide rate of men in the area, particularly among those with indigenous/Aboriginal backgrounds.
This facility (The Shed) is targeting a very real problem, as the Co-Ordinator says:
”Five men across Australia commit suicide every day. Times are hard for many men who are struggling to put food on the table.”
The Shed is facing the loss of its Federal funding, and obviously this is a facility that needs more funding, not less. Depression amongst men is highly prevalent and woefully underdiagnosed because of cultural expectations that men just shrug self-negative emotions off rather than examine them, and the suicide rate of men reflects the fact that shrugging self-negative emotions off is simply not a practical solution to the problem of depression. Men need encouragement to talk about these issues with other people despite the genderised social expectation of emotional stoicism.
As a feminist well aware of the huge value of womanly solidarity in discussing emotional pain I am glad to see some manly solidarity encouraging men to acknowledge that their emotional pain exists and that they need to work on it rather than just shunt it aside. I hope that some parallel encouragement for men to admit their emotional fragility to the women in their lives (without judging themselves as weak and effeminate), could build on the success of The Shed’s manly solidarity to make men even more emotionally resilient and thus even less likely to self-harm and suicide.
Now, here is the statistic I have problems with:
Co-ordinator Gavin Dickson has called on federal and state governments to continue the funding and put more investment into men’s health.
”For every $100 spent on women’s health, $1 is spent on men,” he said.
I would really like to see the study from which that figure is derived, because while there quite possibly is an imbalance which should be examined, that figure strikes me as severely slanted.
Does it take into account all the health money spent on services which care for men as well as women, or is it just looking at services which have “Men’s” and “Women’s” in the title? Cardiac services care for many more men than women just for starters. In fact, nearly every “general” ward in a hospital will have far more male patients than female patients, so men are actually getting a very good share of health care funding in the general healthcare budget, including the mental healthcare budget.
Does it take into account that by far the bulk of money spent on women’s health care is for pregnancy/birth services, which is actually for mothers AND babies, and that slightly more than half of all babies born are male? Also, unless we wish to forgo human reproduction entirely, women and not men have to give birth to the next generation: this particular funding skew towards women is not based on cold, ruthless, man-hating politicking but on warm, passionate, man-partnering biology. Natal services money cannot logically be spent on men, no matter how many women fervently wish that their partners could experience exactly what pregnancy and birth involve. If that figure above includes natal health care (as I very much suspect it does) it is heavily skewing the figures.
Now, away from my irritation with this particular skewed statistic and back to the issue of male depression and suicide and funding for health care that targets this particular problem.
Even though health care services are just as open to men as to women, currently women are actually using mental health services much more than men. What the tragic male suicide rate tells us is that this discrepancy is not due to women being more prone to mental health problems than men, just that women are more willing to seek help for them and thus fewer women end up actually killing themselves.
Therefore, to help as many men as women, it makes total sense that in order to ensure that men get the mental healthcare that they need, separate funding is required for outreach services like The Shed which give men a place where they can admit that they are in emotional pain and harming themselves mentally by failing to seek help, so that these men can then be funnelled into the more formal mental health service and get the professional help that they need.
Please, Gavin Dickson, it really is OK to ask for more money for your vital service without telling untruths about the current gender composition of health funding.