An interview with Kerry Babbage MATES Men's Network CEO:
Kerry Babbage is the founder and CEO of an inspirational and ingenious project called simply the MATES Program. He has been working closely with men undergoing crisis and feeling suicidal now for over 12 years.
"It has become a passion for me, or a calling from the first moment I found that I could help save another's life by simply being there...I became hooked!"
How did you then come to develop the MATES Program to what it is today?
"In knowing there was an answer to suicide, particularly male suicide which is around 4 times higher than women, my quest began to find a better more efficient way of dealing with this world-wide epidemic. I then worked at how I could then develop this social model on a larger scale utilising the wisdom I had been fortunate to gain over the years through access to amazing teachers, life experience and the scientific application of that wisdom..."
I understand the original concept of the MATES program has its roots back in the East Coast of Australia approximately 12 years ago, an area that has been plagued by high suicide levels for sometime and many areas having become notorious suicide jump-off points for the rest of Australia. What continued to give you the motivation to continue in your work?
"I found that there was an absolute plethora of suicide research and suicide awareness campaigns, with millions of dollars being spent to come up with the same age old answers...that we don't exactly no why people complete suicide. For me this was sickening and I committed my life to do something about it not just talk..."
In the findings from a study in July 2004 of the World Health Organisation's (WHO) Regional Office for Europe’s Health Evidence Network (HEN) it states:
(1) About 30 types of suicide preventive interventions were evaluated in the published research, which covered the whole spectrum of primary and secondary prevention efforts. More than half of these interventions fall into the domain of treatment rather than prevention and maintenance. Limited evidence indicates that no single intervention appeared to be effective in reducing the suicide rate. Evidence from systematic reviews (rated as “good” in relation to their methodological quality) indicated that some interventions targeting at-risk individuals appeared promising.
Mr Babbage's Program syntheses personal development, peer group support, leadership training and "mateship" to not only tackle the male dominated suicide problem but to empower communities by helping to lower family violence, criminal activity, addictive behaviours and create positive male role models. I asked Mr Babbage to please clarify what he meant by "mateship"
"The word itself "mate" has been around for hundreds of years, yet I feel that it was in the First World War in Europe and Gallipoli that "mate" became known as a real concept, especially in the trenches. Mateship was needed to support you and help carry you through the tough times and thus was also about being there for others when you felt you were in a place of strength. This vital need for survival for our armed forces was carried on through the Second World War and following wars."
"Mateship is not just a blokes thing but for women, girlfriends, children and in all sorts of occupations. Having a best mate has always been suggested to be healthy and a strength-based concept similar to the buddy system in scuba diving. Whether it be your life-partner or friend or both, there is much emerging evidence to show that mateship is good for you, and having a healthy strong relationship with another is a basic human trait that many men have forgotten through their isolation and dis-empowerment. Not only is it confidence building and fun to have a best mate and friends you can rely on, but research has shown it to promote better health, longevity and to be a major deterrent against suicide."
"In today’s world for me mateship is about being there for the mate who is experiencing emotional turmoil and hardship which is pushing them towards suicide and to join the staggering statistics of over one million people who take their own lives each year. Being there for them and helping to save their life."
How do you find when there has been so much study, time and money put into finding a solution to prevent suicide that the MATES Program works?
"Many men have been saved by transforming their pain into drive and motivation to fulfill their potential, thus dramatically changing their World and the people in it. This has been achieved through empathy, support, life skills education and unconditional positive regard from other men who have been there before and survived. It all starts from having the courage to walk through that door, then suddenly realising you are not alone. Also the understanding that Men grow through the reflection of themselves that they see in other Men."
"Suicide is an act carried out in isolation; in fact, the scene becomes one of the loneliest places on earth for the victim and ultimately is the victim’s final decision...however to be there for someone, to be a mate in times like these will save a life."
The MATES Program seems to hold many answers to this destructive and heart-rendering problem we call suicide. With the World looking for answers in research, psychiatry, mental health and pharmaceuticals, maybe the answer lies in the simplicistic act of the human heart in reaching out and touching another through mateship...To contact Kerry and colleagues and the MATES team of trainers and facilitators...visit the MATES Website: www.matesmensnetwork.com or Email: email@example.com
.References: (1) Guo B, Harstall C (2004) For which strategies of suicide prevention is there evidence of effectiveness?Copenhagen, WHO Regional Office for Europe (Health Evidence Network report;http://www.euro.who.int/Document/E83583.pdf, accessed 15 July 2004).
Testimonials from Authentic Men:
“In the short time I have attended MATES I learnt about the mask we can all wear and it felt like mine was going to crack and upon leaving that meeting I also felt like I had a hole in my safety net…Gradually my life has started to change & every time, around & in that energy of MATES, I grow closer to that Authentic Life we long for & deserve to have and personally look forward to the time & challenges to come.” – Ricky
“There have been tears and laughs as we share together. Quite often I am surprised by what happens during our sharing together. I've found a healing takes place as we humble ourselves and share from our hearts. There is opportunity for the guys to really encourage those who are going through a rough patch in their lives. There is a great deal of wisdom that is shared and I have personally grown and learnt a lot through the times of encouragement…I have really enjoyed the challenging process that I have seen in my own Life and I hope that many other men will come on board so that MATES can make a difference in their Lives as well.” - Kevin
“This was a fairly dramatic and highly unpleasant time that left me highly stressed and in a lot of self-doubt…I have attended regular meetings since then and have found a huge level of comfort amongst members. It is a very non-judgmental environment where I feel accepted for all of who and what I am. I gain huge amounts of clarity and insight from all members and meetings.” – Lawrence
“This for me was the start of something awesome. Men here were interested in where I had been, but more so where I was going. This question was one I wanted answers for and they seem to give me a sense of hope which I hadn’t seen before. It was incredible the feelings I had from these meetings and I wanted more of it. I knew it was good for me…" - Peter