Opening address to the Promoting Mental health and Well-being In Men symposium
MP Peter Dunne from United Future political party opened the Wairarapa Men’s Health meeting very well, ..I thought. I particularly liked the way he addressed lots of areas where work is needed and included men’s issues spoken on men’s sites. I know some of his wording won’t go down well but I also know it’s good to see progress.
Here is part of his speech….
I want to spend a few minutes this morning touching on some of the more difficult realities faced by men in New Zealand – and perhaps it will be a sensitive issue in this room today, as much as it is in wider New Zealand.
We have a lot of angry men in this country.
They tend to be men who are very hurt, often coming out of relationship break-ups in which they feel they have been unfairly treated – particularly in areas such as custody of children and child support.
Chief Family Court Judge Peter Boshier last year – to his very real credit – addressed the tragedy that 18 people involved in Family Court proceedings had killed themselves in a 12-month period to June last year.
Add to that four homicides.
Three-quarters of those were involved in disputes over their children.
In short, too many men feel they are not getting a fair go, particularly in Family Court proceedings.
They can be loud.
They can be difficult to deal with.
Sometimes they can be their own worst enemies.
Because that anger makes them too easy to dismiss.
‘They’re angry, they’re bitter, they’re woman-haters, they’re nutters’.
I am sure you have heard it all before.
And yes, they are too easy to dismiss.
But as a society, we do so at our peril.
Also – and we should remember this – to do so is simply not fair.
I think we need to listen to these men more.
We need to actually take a hard look at why they are angry and hurt, and not just say ‘you’re angry; go away’.
That has not happened enough in society or in government.
Over the last two years I have working on a review of aspects of the Child Support system.
I know I have been vilified by many men’s groups because I have not clicked my fingers and resolved all their problems overnight.
I do not for one minute diminish, nor do I underestimate the depth of their feelings and their anxieties.
But, in part because of the image of the angry men I referred to a moment or two ago, this is an area in which I am discovering the need to tread carefully in developing viable solutions.
My commitment to resolving the issues remains undimmed, however, and the issue remains a high priority for me.
In coming here today and speaking on how men can help themselves, we perhaps need to acknowledge where men need to be heard, listened to and respected by society and by government.
I do not see this as a ‘men versus women’ situation.
In fact, my experience is that the vast majority of women recognise that there are areas where men do not and have not got a fair go, and they would like that remedied.
Contrary to various ‘gender wars’ theories, the vast majority of women actually like the men in their lives and care for them and want the best for them.
Over recent decades, much has been done to advance the causes and promote the interests of women.
And that work has been so important and remains so.
No one wants the pendulum to swing back the other way, but just to the middle perhaps.
That will start with events like today.
It will start when we realise that men have their own particular and equally valid concerns.
It starts young.
Our boys are falling behind our girls in educational achievement.
That needs addressing.
Our men are less healthy than our women.
They have specific mental health concerns.
They kill themselves more often than women.
We need to talk about all these things and increase the amount of action around them.