By Adam Gibson
Around seven Australian men commit suicide every day. Seven men. Per day. For god’s bloody sake, that’s ridiculous. Shocking. Donald Horne was being ironic when he said Australia was the “Lucky Country”, but that phrase has become common vernacular usage for what people do feel about the place. It’s a badge of honour, to be worn to express “How good have we got it?!” But seven men pulling the plug per day!? That’s nothing to spruik about. Someone ain’t sharing the luck. That’s shit.
And bloody hell, it’s not a contest and it isn’t anything to be proud of, but that’s more than three times the figure for women. What a disaster. What is going on? Every suicide is a tragedy, be it a man or a woman, but that disparity is just so vast and so heavy. Why isn’t this known more widely? Perhaps it is. I hadn’t been made well aware of it. All I know is that on this warm Monday afternoon in Spring in Sydney, it suddenly occurred to me that I personally know at least 10 to 20 men – friends or acquaintances – who have committed suicide. Extrapolate that out to all the people I know … and jeeezussss.
I have been through depression; I’ve given anxiety a solid nudge. I’ve seen the dark of the night and I have been on first name terms with the otherwise nameless shadow figures of 3am, those spirit souls wandering the night, throwing doubt and hopelessness around like flowers at a 70s hippie party in Nimbin, granting black blood blessings to your horrible individual self, a self that would give anything for sleep. Been there, got the damn prescription. But I have found ways to get through, put my head down and carry on.
So forgive me if I sound glib about this, but something needs to shift in Australia, something needs to be arked up and sparked up and revved up and any-other-verbs-you-can-think-of upped up… Jesus Christ. Seven men per day. Seven men who maybe followed footy teams, seven blokes who maybe had kids, wives, mums/dads, Labradors named Billy or Alsatians named Sasha, who played in bands, who owned Toyota Hiluxes with mag wheels and ARB canopies; fellas who were happy the North Queensland Cowboys made the NRL Grand Final (and pissed off Melbourne won) or that Richmond finally won the AFL; men who were stoked in the last Gang of Youths album, who loved Suzanne Vega or the new Courtney Barnett/Kurt Vile record; guys who ran triathalons, who loved Game of Thrones and Q&A, who caught the bus to work playing Megadeth on their headphones so loud even the bus driver could hear … basically guys who were just like you, or not far off, or someone you know, or maybe who you used to know, back in the day.
I’m baffled, I’m struggling to get my head around this. But I do believe that I come from a position that I have seen the dark side and have worked things out which, to a degree, can make a difference. I also come from a solid family, live in a good area, have had a decent education (arguably) and am reasonably fit. “All good”, you might say. But such things don’t in themselves negate the blackness.
So yes, the first and basic idea is that, I believe, no matter how bad things are, they will always eventually pass or get better. And if they get bad again, they will again pass too. I don’t know. Try to damn well stick with it… I am no psychologist and I am no doctor. This is perhaps akin to the sort of homespun homily you find everywhere these days, shallow “inspirational” quotes attributed to people whom you don’t even know and who probably didn’t even say them in the first place.
But anyway …
Just try try try … try to move onward … give someone a call or email, give ME a call or email, go for a surf or a run, sign up to a bloody yoga class, get on Tinder and swipe right a zillion times till you get a match, do a knitting workshop, go to a decent GP (eg. Dr Simon Gerber, Bondi Junction), don’t outright reject anti-depressants or similar, think that through, do a meditation class (talk to Lis Cancio, Bondi), learn to box and hit the heavy bag (talk to Maydad at the Bondi Boxing Gym), go live in the hills in a shed at the back of Bangalow (LJ Hooker Bangalow, I guess??)…
Essentially, do SOMETHING to shift things; try, have a go, go and see a band, start a band, explore the Clash’s back catalogue, get on YouTube and search for Husker Du, listen to every song, buy every PJ Harvey album and learn every word, listen the spoken poetry of Kate Tempest or Sean M Whelan, read the novels of Peter Carey and the non-fiction of Helen Garner, order the novel ‘The North Water’ online (it’s bloody great), read about when Leonard Cohen met Marianne on Hydra, listen to all of Leonard’s works, go to a Boon Companions event, buy a Patrick Lee Fermor book, listen to a Mick Thomas album, learn to surf (talk to Let’s Go Surfing in Bondi and elsewhere), learn to play the trumpet (let the neighbours know first), do an acting course at the Actor’s Centre, my god … find a GOD, almost any one will do!
Deep breath… more … Find a sport and a team to support, join the SES and get a nice orange uniform, join the RFS and fight fires (say hi to Tony Abbott), go for a beer with a mate at Bat Country at The Spot in Randwick, join a writing workshop to purge yourself of those awful rough angles in your mind (call me, we’ll start one), buy a surfboard; a shortboard, a longboard, a fucken ironing board, anything will do, hang it on your wall if that’s all you wanna do with it.
Basically, my point is … just do something, anything to turn the days onward, to shift the dark feelings, cos they always do eventually shift.
Many years ago, old-time Aussie movie buff Bill Collins (“What do you have to do to be a ‘buff’?,” – George Costanza) showed the classic surf film ‘Big Wednesday’ on his Saturday Night at the Movies show. In the customary intermission, I remember clearly, he came on and just said, “Wow, I have never been a surfer and never will be … but I can see that it is something … that makes the bad days good and makes the good days better.” Nailed it Bill. It’s what everyone needs.
That is an absolutely shithouse statistic of seven men per day … it is affecting every one of us in Australia. I don’t really have the answers but a collective effort aimed directly at men encouraging such things as I mention, is, perhaps, somehow required.
Ok, I’m going for a surf now…
- All those specific names I have mentioned have been people, or places, which have helped me. They are just reference points to indicate that these aren’t abstract ideas I am simply tossing around.
It’s on again … + WE’RE on again! That sweet lil’ big festival, that old-school-wander-around-and-discover-unreal-bands event, that classic friendly, cruisy shindig of sun, music, grass and bands – Fairgrounds – is back on. And we’ve been invited to play again. We are stoked beyond measure having just found out the news.
If you haven’t been in previous years, make your debut this year. If you’ve been before, we’ll see you there. The usual spot. In the shearing shed, near the windmill. The Shins are playing! Gang Of Youths are playing! You Am I are playing! Saturday, December 9.
Stay tuned for some good news, coming in the next week or so.