Two males’ different perspectives on the importance of male suicide prevention

Posted 27th June 2023 in Sector news

Perspectives in male mental health and suicide prevention are an integral part of developing Australia’s approach to male specific suicide prevention that recognises, understands, and meets the needs of Australian males whilst acknowledging the diversity and experiences of men and boys.

Glenn Cotter and Gabriel Spira are two men working within the suicide prevention space, both with very different roles and experiences, but they have a common purpose to support the advancement of male suicide prevention approaches in Australia.

Glenn Cotter is based in Based in Bega, NSW, and is a Lived Experience Suicide Prevention Peer Worker at Grand Pacific Health, a Mental Health Advocate & Consultant, Presenter, an R U OK? Ambassador, and Lived Experience Advisory Panel member at Suicide Prevention Australia. In his spare time Glenn enjoys spending time with family and working around his 1870’s Heritage house in Candelo.

Gabriel Spira is a Social Worker and Mental Health Clinician at Grand Pacific Health supporting those who have experienced suicidal thinking or suicide attempt. Gabriel enjoys living on the Far South Coast of NSW, volunteering for Wildlife Rescue South Coast and enjoys outdoor activities and video games.

Both Glenn and Gabriel are members of the National Men’s Lived Experience of Suicide Network.


Why is male mental health and suicide prevention important to you?



For me personally, when I was starting to feel that something wasn’t okay, I had no idea how to get help or where to even start looking.

When I did talk about how I was feeling with my employer I was made to feel that I wasn’t able to keep doing my job, which led to a forced retirement at 55 in 2013, feeling like I was no longer of any worth to society.

Over the next five years the feeling of not being a worthwhile part of society, too old to get work, loss of identity and being a burden on everyone around me lead to a breakdown in 2018 following a period of increasing suicidal ideation [thoughts].

We need to remind men, especially middle-aged men that we are so much more than the sum of ‘do we own our house, what do we do for a living’ that we are allowed to be both compassionate and strong, not having to be one or the other.

Finally reaching out and admitting to a mate that I wasn’t ok, that I needed help was the hardest thing I have ever done, but it allowed me to realise that I couldn’t do it alone.

I didn’t need someone to fix me, just to sit with me and let me share my thoughts and my fears and not judge me.


For me, a man now in my early 30’s, I’ve long struggled with insecurities around my body image, social anxiety, panic attacks and deep periods of depression and melancholy. I have struggled with my own mental health for many years and tried to do it alone. It wasn’t until a friend reached out and shared that they had similar experiences that I was able to start the process of giving myself permission to get the help I needed. This is an ongoing process for me, and I don’t ever like to pretend I’m ‘cured’. Taking care of my mental health is a lifelong journey, just the same as our physical health…and we never know what’s around the corner.

Knowing how hard it was for me to be kind enough to myself to accept support from that dark place makes me really passionate about helping other men find that compassion for themselves too. These days there are so many societal pressures that already exist. We need to even out the added criticism and harshness with which we treat ourselves with deep love and compassion to accept we are enough, just as we are.


What are some of the changes you have observed in recent years about the way we approach male suicide prevention in Australia?



I think that we are making progress in the way we think about men in the way we approach suicide prevention in Australia but unfortunately, we still have a long way to go.

As a middle-aged man, I still feel there is a lot of talk about what the clinical profession feels we need, but not a lot of discussion with us about what we want.

For many of the men I work with the main thing they want is the chance to be heard without judgement, to feel that they are not failing their family or themselves because of their periods of mental distress.

For many men there is still restrictions in getting support through services that only offer Monday to Friday, 9 to 5 options, there is still a big stigma among both men and employers about supporting men to attend counselling sessions during work hours as well as a reluctance from support services to be available outside the 9 to 5 framework.


I am seeing the beginning of a shift away from a goal of 'fixing' people, to a place where we can start to just sit with where people are. In my experience, the men we work with don’t need to be taught how to do or think differently, they just need someone to listen deeply, acknowledge their pain and suffering, and be willing to sit in that uncomfortable space with them.


What are some different approaches to male suicide prevention that sector and government should consider to better meet the needs of males in Australia?



We have seen an increase in community driven support groups over the last few years, especially in regional and rural areas to open up the chance for men to reach out and talk, programs such as The Man Walk, Mr Perfect and The Men’s Table are giving men the chance to sit down with their peers and friends and have that informal conversation where they can feel that they are not alone.

Unfortunately we are seeing so many of these groups relying on community driven projects with many of the funded services not providing face to face services in these areas.

There is a preference for the face to face, side by side support provided by Lived Experience Peer Workers over the clinical impersonal nature of telehealth for many men, the idea of being able to sit with other men who have felt the same emotions and found ways to work towards being able to cope better with their periods of confusion and distress.


To truly break the stigma around suicide we need to find a way to not make suicide 'wrong', or 'shameful'. Men who take their lives do it as a last resort, often believing the world and their families will be better off without them. Unless we find a way to make it okay to have painful conversations around death and suicide, then men won’t feel safe enough to bring it up until it’s too late.

To have these difficult conversations men need to feel a degree of emotional safety. So I echo Glenn’s point that we must have agile services that can meet men where they feel most comfortable. Be that at the local cafe, walking in some bushland, or in a more private setting.


You speak about the strong need to re-frame how masculinity is viewed in Australia. What impacts would this have on male mental health and suicide prevention?



I touched earlier on the concept that men can be both strong and compassionate, they are in fact the whole of the person rather then feel that they are viewed as one or the other.

When we as a society can allow men to be men in their own right, to be loving fathers, husbands, partners whilst still being able to be a strong protective influence, to understand that we men can be comfortable in our day-to-day life.

There are still too many stereotypes of what positive or negative masculinity is, even in some of the campaigns of service providers which lead to confusion as to how a man should act.

As someone who has lived a life as a blue-collar worker, truck driver, club bouncer and bodyguard, motorcycle rider and generally an average Australian bloke I have been told that I don’t look like someone who is a mental health counsellor.

I’m not sure what that’s supposed to look like, so I can’t reply to that.

Am I someone who has been through the dark times of depression and increasing suicidality? Yes.

Have I been lucky enough to have found help when I thought there was nowhere to go? Yes.

Can I bring this experience to my role as a Lived Experience Peer Worker? Yes.

Can I help other men realise that they are not alone in these times and that they can ask for help without losing their masculinity or identity? I hope so.


I can only speak from my personal experience. Masculinity has always been a difficult topic. I was teased when I was young for not being manly enough to play sports. Later in life my masculinity felt only captured by my physical appearance and attractiveness to others.

I hope that I can use my gender as a man to show that it is possible to be a man who is learning to be proud of himself, and someone who can put their wellbeing first. I think a lot of men, myself included, are confronted by powerful shame narratives about masculinity being toxic. We should be able to both accept that men in pain are capable of causing terrible harm to others, and themselves, and at the same time see that the pain needs healing. Men can help men to heal that pain and that’s where I think the power of masculinity can really begin to shine.


What are some actions that communities, families or friends can take to better support male mental health and suicide prevention?



For me the simple act of looking out for our mates and staying connected through community events such as sporting clubs, social groups and such is important, but being prepared to reach out to someone that you may be concerned about cannot be underestimated.

If you think something is not right with a mate, ask. Trust me it may be the question that makes all the difference, honestly for me it’s probably what saved my life.

And for those of us who are feeling not quite right, put your hand out to a mate, a loved one, there is nothing stronger or braver than asking for help.

It could very well be the conversation that changes a life.


I think Glenn’s summed it up very well. Practice as much as you can to just listen. Don’t try to fix your friend's pain, you don’t need to. Listening is a simple, but powerful antidote to sharing the load men carry alone.

The other important persistent myth to bust is that talking about suicide doesn’t make someone more likely to take their own life. It’s the exact opposite. If you can ask directly about suicide you can make space for an honest answer that often doesn’t need a crisis response. Almost all of us will have at some point thought it would be easier not to be alive than suffer though the challenges life throws at us. If you are really worried about your mate and don’t know what to do, reach out to a support service, there are lots out there and there are no silly questions.

Subscribe to eNews

Keep up to date and sign up to the Life in Mind eNews, sharing some of the latest news and research in suicide prevention.

Sign up now