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since June 19, 2001


Family Breakdown and Suicide in Australia

The information quoted below is excerpted from the report "Family Breakdown in Australia — An attempt to get at the truth about the magnitude of the problem" by Malcolm Mathias, president of the Lone Fathers Association of Australia Inc.

Update 2004 09 23: The PIR Independent Research Group published a report on a thorough review of the Australian Child Support Agency (2004 09 22).  The PIR CSA-Review contains the latest compilation of estimates on men's suicides caused through Draconian, oppressive and exploitative enforcement of CSA rules.  That information from the PIR report has been appended.

The full report is accessible as a PDF document (131kB.)

If you don't have the time to read all of the text below, check at least the graph.

"There is a growing feeling that the loss of family can now be measured directly in poor achievement at school, unemployment, bankruptcy, domestic violence, homelessness and suicide."

"It is in the best long term interests of the children and both parents that payments are maintained for as long as possible. Short term gain for the custodial parent becomes long term pain for the children and the non-custodial parent in the longer term.
    After only five years the financial burden becomes too great, and many non-custodial parents are forced to look at other financial and "life" options.  Many non-custodial men are forced to live in cheap accommodation (or move back in with often pensioner parents), are compelled to leave paid employment, forced into bankruptcy, lose contact with their children, lose any prospect of a comfortable retirement and a growing number ultimately commit suicide.  Many innocent men do not survive this draconian system."

"…The recent Men and Family Relationships conference conducted by the Federal Attorney General in Canberra (June 9-11, 1998) suggested the need for marital counselling before family breakdown, and recognised the "situational" nature of domestic violence, which was non-gender specific.
    Non-custodial parents are plunged into emotional turmoil following family breakdown.  Government services must be put in place to support "non-custodial" parents.  It is hoped that this type of service would reduce the suicide rate among non-custodial men."


For some the only solution to family breakdown is suicide.  The number of divorced men choosing suicide as the means of ending their heartache, pain and suffering has increased since the introduction of the Child Support Scheme.  This is supported by the ABS Suicides Australia 1982-1992, Pub No 3309.0.


Year/Sex Never Married Married Widowed Divorced Not Stated
1982 M 515 591 79 92 29
1982 F 84 215 95 62 3
1983 M 473 576 90 111 51
1983 F 98 183 85 48 2
1984 M 504 560 69 110 57
1984 F 116 188 60 38 1
1985 M 586 564 70 138 66
1995 F 106 155 73 60 2
1986 M 583 637 81 147 71
1986 F 116 210 68 55 NIL
1987 M 731 754 110 148 18
1987 F 145 175 79 66 1
1988 M 753 725 87 147 12
1988 F 138 189 71 67 1
1989 M 738 637 96 169 10
1989 F 106 202 66 61 2
1990 M 772 687 87 168 15
1990 F 119 161 68 74 4
1991 M 835 703 90 200 13
1991 F 171 197 70 71 2
1992 M 828 708 73 192 14
1992 F 153 176 80 61 2

[The callousness of society towards men is quite well reflected in the "Not Stated" column.  We don't even care enough about men who committed suicide to determine their marital status as often as  we do with women when they committed suicide.  It would make an interesting study to determine why that happened, although, to be objective about it, it didn't happen as often anymore from 1887 on.  Did someone suddenly develop a conscience?
    The following graph was constructed from the data in the preceding table. —WHS

See also the poster Save the Males

"In analysing suicide by marital status i.e. whether persons were married, divorced, widowed or never married, only the population over the age of 15 years was included.  Of the four marital status categories, divorced persons had the highest average crude suicide rate over the period 1982-1992 with 34 deaths per 100,000 of divorced mean population.  Divorced females had a higher suicide rate than females in any other marital status category with 18 deaths per 100,000 of the divorced female mean population during the reference period.  By comparison, divorced males had an average crude suicide rate of 54 deaths per 100,000 of the divorced male mean population.
    The highest proportion of suicide deaths for both divorced males and females occurred in the 35-44 years age group with 32 per cent and 31 per cent of total suicides for divorced males and females respectively.
    Persons who had never married had the next highest rate of suicide for the reference period with 21 suicides per 100,000 of the mean population.  The average crude suicide rate for males who had never married was 32 deaths per 100,000 of the male never married mean population, while the female rate in the same category was 8 deaths per 100,000 of the female never married mean population."

"The highest proportion of suicide deaths for both males and females who had never married occurred in the 15-24 years age group.  Forty five per cent of both male and female suicides in the never married category occurred in this age group.  This age group also represents the highest proportion of never married persons.  The proportion of the never married population in the 15-24 years age group has increased over the reference period.  In 1992 the median age for males to marry was 26.9 years while for females the median age was 24.7 years.  By comparison the 1982 median ages at which males and females married were 24.6 and 22.4 years of age respectively.
    There were 5 female suicide deaths per 100,000 of the female never married mid-year population in the 15-24 years age group for the period 1982 to 1992, compared with 24 male suicide deaths per 100,000 of the mid-year population in this age group over the same period.  By contrast the age-specific death rate in the 25 years and over age group for the period was 13 female suicide deaths per 100,000 of the female never married mid-year population and 46 male suicide deaths per 100,000 of the male never married mid-year population.
    The widowed population had an average crude suicide rate of 20 deaths per 100,000 of the widowed mean population.  The male suicide rate for this marital status category was the highest for males in any category with 56 deaths per 100,000 of the widowed male mean population.  Widowed females recorded a suicide rate of 11 deaths per 100,000 of that mean population.
    The highest proportion of suicides in the widowed category are in the older population.  Males most at risk appear to be in the 75 and over age group which contributed 40 per cent of the total widowed male suicides.  Females in the 65-74 years age group had the highest proportion (35 per cent) of widowed female suicides."

"The pain of separation (and divorce) from your partner is clearly reflected in the suicide statistics for both widowed and divorced persons.  Divorced males are also forced to endure the pain of separation from their children (92% of men do not get custody of their children), on top of the pain of separation from their partner.  It is therefore not surprising that divorced men suicide 3 times more frequently than divorced women.
    Further study of the "never married" and "married" categories may reveal further evidence of the effects of "Family Law" and the "Child Support Scheme."
    There were 143,800 "never married" Lone Mothers with dependent children included in the ABS Family Characteristics study (Pub No 4442.0).  If some of these pregnancies were planned by the mother to take advantage of social welfare and child support payments, then some of the "male youth suicide problem" may also be a "Family Law" and "Child Support" problem.  Young males suicide at a rate of 24 male deaths per 100,000 of the mid-year population in this age group (15 -24 years), while young females suicide at a rate of 5 female deaths per 100,000 of the female never married mid-year population in this age group.  Young males suicide 4.8 times more frequently than young females.
    The suicide rates for married people clearly reflect the desirability of marriage for both males and females.  When do suicides in marriage occur?  Is it the impending marriage breakdown which brings on suicide for both male and female, or are there other factors?  More research is needed.

"Further data on suicide rates for the period 1993 to 1996 are available from the Australian Bureau of Statistics for their minimum charge of $100.  Unfortunately, voluntary organisations like the Lone Fathers Association of Australia Incorporated find it very difficult to allocate $100 of their scarce resources to obtain the more recent, but as yet uncompiled, data."

[The situation is much the same in Canada.  There is absolute no funding for non-custodial fathers and virtually none for parenting rights groups catering to non-custodial parents of either sex.  However, consider that the federal government made an extra $250,000 available to "women's" rights groups to allow them to do a study on domestic violence that could be used to demonstrate the overwhelming need for the right of custodial mothers to have freedom of movement.  That study was prepared in time for the hearings of the Joint Senate House of Commons Committee on the Review of Child Custody and Access. --WHS]

    Many men are paying a heavy personal and family price for the "feminist" movement.  Men appear to be more loyal to their marriage vows, and are more distraught after marriage breakdown.  Many women go through a grieving process while they are secretly planning the marriage breakdown, and it often takes men by surprise.  Women now feel more empowered to pursue a more egocentric lifestyle without the encumbrance of the now unwanted husband.  Freedom for liberated women by their choice is one thing, rewarding them with a favourable property settlement, custody of the children, significant Government welfare support and child support payments is an entirely different matter."

[However, to be a single mother and a successful parent is no easy task.  In all of this acrimony between government-sponsored, anti-family interest groups and non-custodial parents, although they are often mentioned, the welfare of the children is often totally ignored.

We should always keep in mind a picture of a society in which today's children will be tomorrow's adult citizens.  Father-absence hampers them in achieving their full capabilities (we have more than enough evidence to support that) and thus on average makes them less than fully functioning in every imaginable way.

To deprive children of their fathers (or their mothers for that matter) is to impose a big handicap on them.  That handicap will make itself felt for as long as they live.  That then means that all of society will have to bear the consequences of that handicap, now and in the future.

The consequences are lower productivity and higher crime rates.  Nobody in the next generation will thank this one for producing so many fatherless children.

To be a good parent is a great responsibility and a difficult obligation.  It is hard for a set of two parents to be successful in that duty and far more difficult for just one parent who can't possibly be successful in filling two different pairs of boots.  Not one single parent can be completely successful in filling the role of both, mother and  father.

Far too often it is that women who tried so hard to "have it all" and therefore expelled the fathers from their thoughts, families and the lives of their children find that they "have to do it all" and are not up to the task.  --WHS  (See also The Impact of Fatherlessness on our Children)]

"The current financial incentives offered by the welfare system through sole parent pensions, combined with the "guaranteed" child support payments, are contributing directly to family breakdown, and consequent suicide rates."

See also: Divorced men head suicide list in Australia

Addendum (2004 09 22)

The following information is excerpted from:

A review of the unemployment and welfare costs of the
Child Support Agency
A Community Awareness Project
[Australia] September 2004

The full PIR report (24 pages, 192 kB PDF file) is available at the PIR website and at the website of Fathers for Life.  The PIR asks that the report receive wide distribution.

[Malcolm Mathias stated in 1990, in a widely ignored report, that,]

After only five years the financial burden [of child support] becomes too great, and many non-custodial parents are forced to look at other financial and "life" options. Many non-custodial men are forced to live in cheap accommodation (or move back in with often pensioner parents), are compelled to leave paid employment, forced into bankruptcy, lose contact with their children, lose any prospect of a comfortable retirement and a growing number ultimately commit suicide. (p. 9)


In the course of our investigation, PIR has become aware that fathers and family law reform groups have consistently reported over many years that relationship breakdown and the resultant involvement of the Child Support Agency is a major contributory factor to the suicide or death from stress related illness of paying parents. It has been claimed that at least three clients of the Child Support Agency suicide each day. The three a day figure is arrived at by deducting those who are too young or too old to be likely clients of the Agency from the overall suicide figures and then taking 70% of the remainder in the prime divorce age range as likely to be clients. Professor Pierre Baume from the Centre for Suicide Prevention, Griffith University had previously found that 70% of adult male suicides were preceded by a relationship breakdown.

Some groups claim that the mortality rate of child support payers is likely to be higher than the suicide figures alone suggest; with for example the divorce age group being the only age group showing an increase in fatal car accidents and it also being an age group with significant health issues. The CSA has repeatedly refused to attend the inquests of child support payers, claiming confidentiality.

Despite ongoing requests from a number of quarters, the Agency itself, and the politicians responsible for it, have consistently refused to release any data on these deaths until recently.

After the installation of a new computer system CSA claims it is now able to supply the relevant data.

p. 16

Researcher and economist John Coochey said “the CSA has reported that 6.1% of terminating cases do so because of the death of either the payer or payee parent. This is more than double the rate within that cohort of the general population. Across the life of the scheme CSA calculated that 22,765 cases have terminated because of the death of a parent. Assuming the 6.1% figure is consistent since the beginning of the scheme this means that of the 68,244 cases terminated during 2002/03, 4162 did so as a result of the death of one of the parents. These figures are not as precise as I would like, but there can be little doubt that the very high death rate amongst CSA clients is due to the high suicide rate among paying parents.”

Suicide rates: Men and Women Aged 20+

Source: ABS/Australian Institute of Health and Welfare

In four yearly increments, the rapid rise in male suicides since the introduction of the Family Law Act in 1975 and the CSA in the late 1980s is clearly evident:

Source: ABS/Australian Institute of Health and Welfare

p. 17

The chart below, based on the same data, also helps to illustrate the rapid rise in suicide levels since the introduction of the Child Support Agency for those aged over 20. With youth suicides static or decreasing, all this increase has been driven by men in the divorce age bracket.

Dr Robert Kelso, a public sector ethics consultant summed up the situation as follows:

”It would appear the senior officers of the Agency have not fully informed successive ministers as to the keeping of records on the deaths. Clearly there has been no public policy response to these deaths. There has been no critical incident team to deal with the trauma to parents, children and extended family.

There also appears to be no policy mechanism in place to prevent the taxpayer from having to carry the burden of cost other than the aggressive and ham-fisted approach at making claims against the dead person’s estate.

This is just another example of a refusal by the government to admit the full costs and liabilities of operating this scheme. It has clearly never paid for itself in an economically rational way.”

p. 18

Alby Schultz, MP for Hume:

“This anti-male culture is contributing to the destruction of careers, mental health problems and it would appear to national male suicide rates. The system is not fair, not just and certainly not equitable between men and women. It is demonstrably wrong to have a system in place under which in some instances a man must pay $2100 a month for his three children plus support himself and his new partner.

”As if the loss of all things materialistic and his children was not enough he is now being prevented from embarking on a new life because of these unrealistic expectations from the Child Support Agency,” Mr Schultz said. “The CSA must be dismantled and reconstructed. The system as it is being administered is not fair, it is unjust and it is inequitable.

It is obvious there is discrimination and a mindset against men, to the point where it is really disturbing."

p. 22

The full PIR report (24 pages, 192 kB PDF file) from which the preceding quotes were taken is available at the PIR website and at the website of Fathers for Life.  The PIR asks that the report receive wide distribution.

Additional Reading:

  • The Politics of Fatherhood, Stephen Baskerville, Ph.D., Howard University; peer-reviewed article in PS: Political Science and Politics, vol. 35, no. 4 (December 2002).

....Virtually every major social pathology has been linked to fatherlessness: violent crime, drug and alcohol abuse, truancy, teen pregnancy, suicide—all correlate more strongly to fatherlessness than to any other single factor. The majority of prisoners, juvenile detention inmates, high school dropouts, pregnant teenagers, adolescent murderers, and rapists all come from fatherless homes. The connection is so strong that controlling for fatherlessness erases the relationships between race and crime and between low income and crime....

....Fatherlessness and the judicial–bureaucratic machinery connected with it have grown up together as increasingly worldwide phenomena....

Full Story

2000 12 23 (added list for additional reading)
2001 01 31 (format changes)
2001 01 20 (added link to suicide information for divorced men in Australia)