In the October 1, 2018 edition of ABC Australia’s QandA, a current events panel show, iconic Australian musician John Butler of the John Butler Trio spoke at length about developing healthy rites of passage paths for young men, male suicide, facing anxiety and depression, and the changing role of men in society. In the conversation he mentioned his connection with the ManKind Project as a place where men can find support and resources.
The show is hosted by Tony Jones. Other panelists on the show included: Young Liberal, activist and People’s Panellist Sali Miftari, Labor Shadow Minister Amanda Rishworth, Australia’s most successful independent musician, John Butler, Greens Senator Sarah Hanson-Young, whose new book tackles sexism in politics, and Trade Minister Simon Birmingham.
The first question of the show was related to suicide. Here is part of the transcript:
Thank you. My question for the panel is that suicide rates have increased by 9% in the last year, with the majority being males. Each and every suicide or self-harm attempt affects family and friends in immeasurable ways. Will the government consider distributing funding more appropriately and introducing new initiatives, like other countries, to ensure we’re making a difference and reducing this rate, noting that the current model is obviously not working?
We’ll start with the men on our panel. John Butler.
JOHN BUTLER, SINGER-SONGWRITER
Um, yeah, I saw those numbers and they made me just feel extremely sad, first of all. 3,200-something and, I think, over 2,500 were men. And I found it disturbing, to tell the honest truth. I guess, in this country that’s rich and affluent and stable and safe, to see there’s so much despair and hopelessness, I…it made me think there is…there’s something bigger at play than…
You think… Is there something here about how we’re bringing up our boys?
I definitely think, you know, looking at those stats, that men in this era are trying to find out who they are, what they are, and what’s the new definition of…to be a man, and I think the old paradigm and the old archetypes don’t suit us. We know they don’t suit us. We’re actually seeing it all around us. And we’re needing to redefine ourselves. I think there’s many ways to do that. You know, rites of passage, the ManKind Project. And there’s a lot of people thinking about it. And I, for one, am totally thinking about it. I’m the father of a 12-year-old boy, and we’re doing lots of rites of passage stuff, father and son camps, and trying to actually just create an environment where young men and older men, fathers and sons and grandfathers, can talk about their emotions. It’s pretty scary to think that, you know… I think we’ve all heard the story, “So-and-so was doing fine, I think he was doing fine, and all of a sudden he’s not with us anymore.” It’s like, we’re not reading it right. So I think it’s a symptom to a bigger problem.
Plus, John, you’ve had your own struggles, too, with the dark side, if I can put it that way. I mean, your new album’s full of songs which sort of delve into your kind of… Can you share some of your own personal experience?
Uh, sure. I mean, I think we all kind of have a dark side, and for me, I’m lucky I have music. I have music to kind of process how I sit in the world and how about I feel about myself. It always has been that way for me. It’s a bit of a diary. But…other ways, I just have a good network of friends. I run… I don’t run, but I host shed nights with my mates, and we make things together, we talk about things other than just footy and, you know, the average blokey things, and we try to get to the bottom of it, you know? Try to get to the bottom of it. And I talk to my mates about my anxiety. Like, “What do you do?” I remember one of my friends said to me, “I just try to be kind to myself.” And those kind of conversations can only happen if you’re not necessarily on social media or texting each other these things, but you’re sitting in the same place with other men, being real.
You can watch the full episode here: https://www.abc.net.au/tv/qanda/txt/s4886865.htm
Thank you to John Butler for the thoughtful consideration and mention! Here’s to more men finding healthy and vulnerable ways to express themselves, it makes a difference to all of us.
For information and interview about the ManKind Project, please contact Boysen Hodgson, MKP USA Communications Director.