On World Suicide Prevention Day, the Man Cave’s founder Hunter Johnson on how we can support young men

by Hunter Johnson
Sunday 10 September 2023

Fostering healthy masculinity presents the most significant opportunity for social change and general community wellbeing in Australia. As it stands, it’s not car crashes, drug overdoses or coward punches that harm men. The biggest killer of young men is themselves. Suicide is the leading cause of death for men aged 15-44. 1 in 5 boys are likely to experience depression before they are 18. The COVID-19 global pandemic has exacerbated Australia's mental health and family violence crisis. 74% of young people report that their mental health is worse since the outbreak of the pandemic (headspace, 2021). 70% say the pandemic and response has negatively affected their social connectedness (AIHW, 2021), while the number of teenage boys presenting to emergency departments after self-harming continues to spike. The cost of treating mental ill-health is $50 billion per annum.

After working with over 50,000 boys across Australia, we at The Man Cave (TMC) fundamentally believe that these statistics can be reduced through school programs that focus on boys’ strengths, rather than their deficits. That is why we exist - to reduce the prevalence of mental ill health, suicide and gendered violence by boys and young men.

Through 10 years of working with young boys, teachers and parents, TMC has learned some unique truths about this generation. More than ever before, young people today live in completely different worlds to their parents, teachers and other adults in their lives.

We also know that boys can’t be what they can’t see.

We also know that boys can’t be what they can’t see. To address this, we believe in delivering transformational school workshops that empower positive mental health and gender equality, led by a highly relatable cohort of facilitators. What sets us apart is that we ‘meet the boys where they are at’ - recognising that the message and the messenger are just as important when it comes to engaging teenage boys. Our expertly trained facilitators have become our strongest selling point as they take a strengths-based approach to effectively role model and inspire the positive behaviours that we seek to encourage, in a way that feels authentic and empowering for young boys.

The best part is - we know our programs can effectively address the challenges boys face. Our evaluation data shows that after attending a TMC program 83% of boys report being more aware of their own emotions, 80% of boys report having the tools and confidence to manage their mental health and 79% of boys know where to get support if they need it. But the positive impact is not just limited to the wellbeing of the boys who attend the program, there are also significant benefits for the people the boys interact with. After attending a TMC program 91% of boys report wanting to be a man that treats others with care and respect and 84% of boys feel empowered to build and maintain healthy relationships.

There is so much need, and so much work to do. World Suicide Prevention Day represents an opportunity for all of us to turn our focus to the critical role of prevention in reducing the statistics that are our current reality, working towards a world in which boys and young men thrive. 

For more information on the Man Cave, visit themancave.life