Blokes, it's time to start talking about depression
LAST year, 3050 Australians took their own life, or that's the official figure.
The true number isn't known and even the government acknowledges that could be just the tip of the iceberg.
Tomorrow, the Black Dog tour bus is in Gladstone to give men a chance to talk about mental health and depression in the safe format of a free barbecue.
When organisers Daniel Bogo and John Marksmen started the Blokes Advice Facebook page they had no idea it would grow to half a million members.
Now the bus is taking them from behind the keyboard and face to face with the growing number off men who understand it's okay to not be okay and that they aren't alone.
The Black Dog tour bus is just one initiative in a rapidly expanding movement to address the epidemic of suicide, particularly in men and young people.
Gladstone finance broker, John Whitten (pictured) now dedicates much of his time to suicide prevention programs.
Mr Whitten's brother took his own life when he returned from the Vietnam War.
"For 20 years I was angry and then I decided to channel it," he said.
Since then, through his Rotary Club and with funding from Gladstone Regional Council, he's trained more than 1000 Gladstone people in the world-renowned Canadian program, Suicide Safe Talk.
He says there are two parts to a person contemplating taking their own life.
"There's the part that wants to live and the part that wants to die," he said.
"We have to work out how to protect the part that wants to live and then work out an action plan."
Getting men to open up about their feelings is hard and runs against the conventional idea of manhood.
The three-hour Suicide Safe Talk program talks about how to spot the signs of suicidal thoughts, how to talk about it and how to refer someone for help.
Mr Whitten says although he says the causes of suicide are many, much of it is rooted in low self-worth.
"I spoke to a bloke who had lost his job. He was thinking about suicide and didn't get much help," he said.
"I told his wife that she needs to build up her husband's self-esteem - tell him you love him and value him, that his children love him, even though he's lost his job.
"It just doesn't hurt to ask someone how things are going.
"It gives them the opportunity to talk about it... it doesn't mean he's going to but at least he knows someone cares.
"A good friend is a good listener."
John Whitten continues the conversaton in tomorrow's Observer.
- The Black Dog tour bus is at Gladstone Marina Parklands on Friday from 3pm with a free sausage sizzle
- For immediate help call Lifeline on 13 11 14
- Contact John Whitten on 0410 433 919