209 men every month: Of the 3,318 push-ups this year, 2,502 of them represent men who died by suicide in Australia in 2019. That’s over 75% of the total, and is equal to about 209 men every month. Women experience mental health issues at higher rates than men, and report higher rates of suicidality. However, men are less likely to seek help for mental illness, and are 3x more likely to die by suicide.

The paragraph above forms the context of our Day 8 target as SSPC continues its way through the push up challenge – 209 push ups for the day. When taking a peek yesterday at what today’s target was, my first thought was “Wow, that’s going to be tough – 209 push ups in a day”. But now that today is here, and we see the reason we are attempting 209 push ups, I had to stop and consider the enormity of this number – 209 men every month in Australia die by suicide, over 50 a week, 7 a day. It is a number that is almost too sad to contemplate, yet we have to.

We continue to see the road death numbers placed in front of us, and campaigns like the TAC ads have been effective in changing rules, and mindsets, and statistics. During the 12 months ending April 2021, there were 1,333 road deaths in Australia – each and every one of them tragic. But almost three times that amount died by suicide in 2019. And with the extraordinary hardships of the pandemic over the last 18 months I don’t even want to think what the 2021 figures might be – but we need to!

When The Push Up Challenge came along, it was not the attraction of the push ups (obviously), it wasn’t the opportunity to push our team achievements in front of you all on social media, it wasn’t even the fundraising – it was the opportunity to create awareness, to create hope, and to let people who are suffering mental health issues know that we are trying to understand, and trying to educate ourselves, but more than anything trying to say to you that we are here if you need us. If you have the extraordinary bravery to say you need help, then we have the absolute commitment to stand alongside you, to talk, to listen, or just to make the loneliness of one person become the companionship of two people.

Why is this so important to me? I have had three cousins die by suicide. The pain, anguish and sorrow of this is dwarfed by watching my aunts, uncles, and cousins deal with the loss of their sons, daughters, sisters and brothers. Like most of you, I also know many who suffer with mental health issues, and whilst I can’t truly understand what it is they feel, I can at least say “I am there whenever you need me”. One becomes two!

So unfortunately, the statistics in the opening paragraph are not a typo – it is fact. It is reality. We are getting so much better at talking about mental health, and that is an awesome start. But just keep in mind that the person suffering might be that “tough guy” you know, your neighbour, your GP, your friend. Mental health does not discriminate, so don’t assume that the outwardly happy person is really OK. Just let people know you care, and that they are important to you. And that will make a difference.

To finish with, I have said from the outset that this challenge was never about fundraising, and it’s not. However with the awareness that all of us at SSPC hope to bring over the next few weeks, we are also excited about the opportunity of being able to provide headspace Bentleigh with some funds to assist them in their great job enabling young people aged 12-25 have free or low cost access to qualified mental health professionals, GPs, drug and alcohol counsellors, and vocational service providers. It’s a tough time to ask, but if you can spare a few dollars it would be greatly appreciated:


Anthony Lance

SSPC Physiotherapist