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Journal article

Suicide, male honour and the masculinity paradox: its impact on the ADF

Australian Defence Force Suicide Mental health Gender Australia

While there are few human problems as complex or multi-determinate as suicide, one factor remains constant: men are considerably more likely to end their lives by suicide than women. To emphasise this point, of the 803,900 suicides world-wide in 2012, 506,487 (65%) were men, which equates to a rate of 15 per 100,000 for men and 8 per 100,000 for women.

There is an interesting paradox in Australia that one of the safest occupations for young men is serving in the ADF. Overall, the rate of suicide for men serving full-time in the ADF is 53 per cent lower than the general population. However, for ex-serving men, the suicide rate is 13 per cent higher than the general population, with those aged 18-24 having double the rate of the general population. By contrast, serving and ex-serving women have a suicide rate so low it is difficult to conduct any meaningful analysis.

This article examines these issues and advances the proposition that the risk of suicide in Australia— and in the ADF—is linked to a culture of honour that is deeply ingrained in the psyche of young men with a predominantly Anglo-Scottish-Irish background. It argues that Australia and the ADF must look more deeply at the way men and women treat men, that men must be encouraged to open up and talk when they need help, and that suicide must be regarded not as an honourable solution but as a tragedy.

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