Dr Allison Milner, the University of Melbourne: Tackling the high incidence of suicide in working men

Stressful working conditions are known to be a major risk factor for mental health problems and suicide among men. Dr Milner's research aims to develop initiatives to reduce the suicide rate and mental health issues in working age men.

Visit the Victorian Health and Medical Research Fellowships section to find out more.

Dr Allison Milner:

I'm a social epidemiologist. So social epidemiologists are primarily concerned with understanding population level health and the factors around individuals that impact on their health. The health and medical research fellowships are platforms for mid-career researchers to accelerate their research in specific areas of health need for the Victorian population.

So the one that I'm looking at, is looking on health service use access among employed men but more generally the mental health consequences of not accessing health services. We have about 3,000 men or just under 3,000 men losing their life each year to suicide. We also know that men are much much less likely to seek help for a mental health condition when they have one, than women.

Certain occupations particularly among men have much higher suicide rates than others. So these occupations are men in the construction industry, men who are employed as nurses for example, men who are employed as farmers. So there's something about men and work that's important here and the connection about these two things.

And I started to think about where should we be targeting our efforts in terms of public health and prevention initiatives. A big part of my job is looking at data and we have a few unique big data bases where I can start to understand the temporal ordering of things. So a man goes into a stressful occupation, in the following year then, is he more likely to seek help and then in the following year is he more likely to have a poor mental health outcome.

So by looking at things at a population level, you can begin to unpack cause and effect of something which is critical when you are trying to intervene. This is where big population level data is critical in the future of our health and wellbeing does lie in our ability to access and use this data because then we can inform government, using the best possible evidence about where they should be placing their resources. But I think this is going to lead to benefits for the population. It's going to increase knowledge. It's going to enable people like me to work with policy makers and hopefully in the future then lead to health benefits for males employed in the population as well.