A workshop in Balclutha this week will look into the problems faced by southern men who have depression.
Called ‘Bloody Sad Men’, it is run by suicide prevention authority Barry Taylor, who has 30 years of international experience working in the field.
It focuses on men in their 40s and 50s, who Mr Taylor said were prone to depression and suicide and often had trouble talking about it.
“We’ve seen a significant rise in suicides with generation X; they’re still killing themselves.”
He said we are still seeing the after-effects of a generation born during a time of social upheaval for New Zealand.
“At the start of the 1980s we had unemployment. We hadn’t seen much of that before. It was the beginning of Rogernomics .. and the end of a social contract that had been stable for decades.”
Rural New Zealand men lost jobs in freezing works and walked off farms that had been in their families for generations.
Mr Taylor said the previous generation of men returned from war and were guaranteed a certain place in society, and a feeling of fulfilment.
Men today could be left wondering where their place was with a changing workforce and social dynamic.
“They think ‘is all I’m good for an alimony cheque, or a pay cheque, or a vial of sperm?”‘
The aim of the workshops is to show them how to find meaning in their own lives.
Mr Taylor said after many years away, he found New Zealand’s lack of progress with the issue frustrating.
“Last year, the Ministry of Health put out a draft strategy for preventing suicide in New Zealand. It didn’t even identify men as a priority group. It’s the major group that’s killing themselves. It’s craziness.”
Mr Taylor would like to see a change in the culture where signs of depression were noticed long before they became the despair that can lead to suicide.
He hoped employers and co-workers and other people that a man sees on a daily basis would realise when he was in trouble, before it was too late.
Mr Taylor has worked for the World Health Organisation in Geneva, the Commonwealth secretariat in London, focusing on youth wellbeing, and the Australian Government, working on suicide prevention strategies.
He not only has decades of experience working with depressed and suicidal people, he has been through it all himself.
“It was interesting. It gives me some insight that allows an empathetic outlook. I’ve got a story to tell that is a story of despair to hope.”