Women barred from men's health conference

BY TANYA KATTERNS
Last updated 05:00 17/03/2010
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Women are being prevented from taking part in a two-day conference on male suicide rates.

The conference, with more than 100 participants from around New Zealand, features male-only guest speakers.

Wairarapa suicide prevention coordinator Barry Taylor said women were excluded to encourage men to take responsibility for their own mental health. "Men's mental health has been a hidden subject over many years. Part of the problem is that they don't talk about their feelings and they don't ask for help."

Mr Taylor said some women had asked to be part of the conference but were told no.

"So often men have delegated their emotional issues on to the women in their lives. It is vital that ... we take responsibility for dealing with the issues."

Female members of the media and Wairarapa District Health Board's communications team have been given permission to attend the event, which begins in Masterton today.

The National Council of Women supported the decision, saying it was about participants feeling they could open up.

The Human Rights Commission said there was nothing illegal or discriminatory in the way the conference was being promoted or held.

"With discrimination you have to suffer detriment. It seems very unlikely that a woman who couldn't go would experience loss. Girl Guides and Boy Scouts limit membership to gender and there is nothing in the Human Rights Act that limits that," spokesman Gilbert Wong said.

Mr Taylor said the focus should be on the purpose of the conference.

"Statistics show the urgency of the problem of depression, often fuelled by relationship breakups, alcohol and drug abuse, crime and antisocial behaviours. More than 500 people die by suicide every year but it is New Zealand men who are three times more likely to kill themselves than women across all ages and races."Men were more reluctant to seek help or may dismiss the seriousness of their problem, he said.

More than 10 guest speakers from New Zealand, Australia and the Netherlands will talk on topics including violence, men's health and child advocacy during the two-day conference.

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- The Dominion Post

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