An interview with Kerry Babbage MATES Founder and CEO:
Kerry Babbage is the founder and CEO of an inspirational and ingenious project called simply MATES Cafe. He has been working closely with men and women undergoing crisis and feeling suicidal now for over 12 years.
"It has become a passion for me, or a calling from the first moment I found that I could help save another's life by simply being there...I became hooked!"
How did you then come to develop the MATES Programmes to what they are today?
"In knowing there was an answer to suicide, particularly male suicide which is around 4 times higher than women, my quest began to find a better more efficient way of dealing with this world-wide epidemic. I then worked at how I could develop this social model on a larger scale utilising the wisdom I had been fortunate to gain over the years through access to amazing teachers, life experience and the scientific application of that wisdom."
I understand the original concept of the MATES program has its roots back in the East Coast of Australia approximately 12 years ago, an area that has been plagued by high suicide levels for sometime and many areas having become notorious suicide jump-off points for the rest of Australia. What continued to give you the motivation to continue in your work?
"I found that there was an absolute plethora of suicide research and suicide awareness campaigns, with millions of dollars being spent to come up with the same age old answers...that we don't exactly know why people complete suicide. For me this was sickening and I committed my life to do something about it not just talk."
In the findings from a study in July 2004 of the World Health Organisation's (WHO) Regional Office for Europe’s Health Evidence Network (HEN) it states:
(1) About 30 types of suicide preventive interventions were evaluated in the published research, which covered the whole spectrum of primary and secondary prevention efforts. More than half of these interventions fall into the domain of treatment rather than prevention and maintenance. Limited evidence indicates that no single intervention appeared to be effective in reducing the suicide rate. Evidence from systematic reviews (rated as “good” in relation to their methodological quality) indicated that some interventions targeting at-risk individuals appeared promising.
Mr Babbage's MATES programme syntheses personal development, peer group support, leadership training and "mateship" to not only tackle the male dominated suicide problem but to empower communities by helping to lower family violence, criminal activity, addictive behaviours and create positive male role models. I asked Mr Babbage to please clarify what he meant by "mateship":
"The word itself "mate" has been around for hundreds of years, yet I feel that it was in the First World War in Europe and Gallipoli that "mate" became known as a real concept, especially in the trenches. Mateship was needed to support you and help carry you through the tough times and thus was also about being there for others when you felt you were in a place of strength. This vital need for survival for our armed forces was carried on through the Second World War and following wars."
"Mateship is not just a blokes thing but for women, girlfriends, children and those in all sorts of occupations. Having a best mate has always been suggested to be healthy and a strength-based concept similar to the buddy system in scuba diving. Whether it be your life-partner or friend or both, there is much emerging evidence to show that mateship is good for you, and having a healthy strong relationship with another is a basic human trait that many men have forgotten through their isolation and dis-empowerment. Not only is it confidence building and fun to have a best mate and friends you can rely on, but research has shown it to promote better health, longevity and to be a major deterrent against suicide."
"In today’s world for me mateship is about being there for the mate who is experiencing emotional turmoil and hardship which is pushing them towards suicide and to stop the staggering statistics of over one million people who take their own lives each year. Being there for them and helping to save their life."
How do you find when there has been so much study, time and money put into finding a solution to prevent suicide that the MATES Program works?
"Many men have been saved by transforming their pain into drive and motivation to fulfill their potential, thus dramatically changing their world and the people in it. This has been achieved through empathy, support, life skills education and unconditional positive regard from other men who have been there before and survived. It all starts from having the courage to walk through that door, then suddenly realising you are not alone. Also the understanding that people grow through the reflection of themselves that they see in other people."
"Suicide is an act carried out in isolation; in fact, the scene becomes one of the loneliest places on earth for the victim and ultimately is the victim’s final decision...however to be there for someone, to be a mate in times like these will save a life."
The MATES Cafe Program seems to hold many answers to this destructive and heart-rendering problem we call suicide. With the world looking for answers in research, psychiatry, mental health and pharmaceuticals, maybe the answer lies in the simplistic act of the human heart in reaching out and touching another through mateship...
To contact Kerry and the MATES team of trainers and facilitators... visit the MATES Cafe Website: www.matescafe.org or Email: firstname.lastname@example.org
References: (1) Guo B, Harstall C (2004) For which strategies of suicide prevention is there evidence of effectiveness? Copenhagen, WHO Regional Office for Europe (Health Evidence Network report; http://www.euro.who.int/Document/E83583.pdf, accessed 15 July 2004).
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