What's the link between separation and suicide?

  • This is one of the most common questions we get asked. Despite many varied claims to the contrary, there is no definitive data set that we are aware of (trust us, we’ve looked really hard) that definitively outlines this link.

  • However, we can legitimately extrapolate data from a 10 year study in Queensland, across the entire country, which gives us a good idea of the likely national picture. This suggests that 1 in 4 of all Australian suicides are linked to separation and that custodial difficulties specifically, account for around 100 suicides each year.

  • This means that around 10-11 men will suicide each week due to separation and that around every 5 days, one dad will suicide due to custodial difficulties.

  • By any reasonable standard, the stated numbers represent a significant number of suicides that are relatively and to a great extent, little known and little supported in preference to other demographics at risk in Australia.

  • Whilst we refer to male suicide and separation, we are also cognisant of the trauma and suicidality experienced by separated mums. We just do not have sufficient data to quantify that impact at this stage.

Do you support both mums and dads, and what about same sex parents?

  • Yes, we are gender inclusive.

  • We operate dads groups/mentors for dads and mums groups/mentors that are for mums.

  • We welcome both heterosexual and same sex parents.

  • We really don’t care who you are as long as you’re a parent, or someone supporting a parent, in need of post separation support. We’re also happy to have ‘non parents’ experiencing the trauma of difficult separation come along.

Can women come to the dads group / men come to the mums group?

  • The dads groups are there for the dads and the mums groups are there for the mums.

  • We need to be respectful that some dads might not feel able to open up in front of a women; likewise for the mums opening up in front of a man.

  • To this end, its okay to come along as a member of the opposite sex but, be aware, we always ask the others present if they mind having a member of the opposite sex sit in.

  • If you intend to come along and join a group of the opposite sex, you’ll need to understand that you might be asked by the others not to join that group on that occasion, and that we always respect that.

  • Historically, it’s quite rare for a man to attend a mums group but women do occasionally attend a dads group – usually it’s the dad’s new partner, mother or other family member coming along for support.

Can children attend a support group?

  • Sorry, no. Its not appropriate because of the subject matter being discussed and also because some attendee’s who are excluded from seeing their children might find it too difficult to cope with.

Who comes to the groups?

  • Mostly, its mums or dads who are either unable to see their children at all, or those who have little or insufficient contact with their children and find that they are not coping well.

  • Sometimes people come along before their children are born (i.e. male partners of pregnant females where they have separated pre-birth) and we also see the occasional person who is struggling with a separation even where there are no children involved.

  • It’s not unusual for new partners, grandparents or other family members to attend a group with a mum or dad.

What do most people get out of attending the groups or calling the helpline?

Over the years, we have asked many thousands of our attendee’s what they most get out of our support; here are the most common answers:

  • I am not alone in my situation

  • Hearing others stories

  • People properly listening to my story

  • The only place I know that I’m not judged by others

  • Being amongst my peers; sitting in a circle with others who’ve experienced the same thing

  • Practical solutions that I can’t find elsewhere

  • Group discussion, especially my being able to help others

  • Commemorating the fallen – remembering those who’ve taken their lives

  • Social interaction after or between group meetings

What are the key outcomes of PBB’s support work?

  • Primarily, its keeping mum and dad around for the kids, so its suicide prevention.

  • That said, we know from our own internal research that we also positively impact domestic violence. How? Because we work on helping parents transition from intact to non-intact families in the least traumatic way, always keeping the kids uppermost in their mind. We help provide parents the tools they need to best navigate highly emotional waters. That reduces conflict and the opportunity for things getting out of hand when people feel they have nowhere else left to go and no option but – in their agony – to harm either themselves or others.

  • We reduce suicide and we reduce domestic violence. We believe the kids deserve this.

Is PBB a pro men's or pro women's rights organisation?

  • Neither. We are a gender neutral/inclusive suicide prevention charity with a focus on separating parents.

  • Our focus is on helping kids stay in their parents lives, and to do so safely, so you might say that we are ‘pro family’, in whatever shape that comes.

  • Ultimately, PBB is a grass roots support charity; we are not a political movement, nor are we an activist organisation or a lobby group. That sets us apart from many in the parental separation field; it might help to think of us as the politically neutral Red Cross of separating parents.

  • The largest demographic that come to us for support are men/fathers so we are recognised as a leader in the field of supporting men/fathers in Australia and across the developed world.

Why did the original name change from Dads in Distress to Parents Beyond Breakup?

  • We’re proud of our history which started as ‘Dads in Distress’ in 1999 by our founder, Tony Miller OAM.

  • When mums started asking to come to the meetings we launched a ‘Mums in Distress’ service.

  • In 2016 we rebranded to Parents Beyond Breakup to better reflect the gender neutrality / inclusivity of our work with both mums and dads.

  • We continue to retain the names ‘Dads in Distress’ and ‘Mums in Distress’ as specific front line support services of the renamed parent charity

How is PBB funded?

  • At this time, Parents Beyond Breakup is primarily funded by the federal government through the Community and Parenting Support Services funding through the DSS.

  • This is to allow delivery of frontline services that are free of charge to those most needing it.

  • However, this is usually insufficient so we also rely on public donation (for which we have tax deductible status).

  • In 2017 we commenced a strategy of diversifying our funding into the corporate sector. This is to minimise tax payer contribution but also to enable a more rapid and flexible expansion of services in line with increasing client demand.

Do you offer value for money?

  • We are one of the most cost efficient charities in Australia today.

  • In fact, we operate services at approximately half the cost of other non-government organisations in our sector, and make each dollar go as far as possible.

  • A key behavioural value, and a component of our core strategy is to ‘do more with less‘. We believe this is responsible and necessary if we are to support as many people as possible. We’re in the game of saving lives, and we never forget it.

Is it true that you are funded by the CSP (Child Support Program)?

  • No. Although we do occasionally still hear this myth being thrown about, it has never actually been true.

  • For a few years we were paid by the DSS to conduct some case study research on behalf of the Child Support Program to see how well they were servicing the needs of separated parents; parents who by the nature of our work we are in touch with daily. The work led to positive changes for parents of which we’re proud.

Why don’t you get involved in protests and activism?

  • PBB is a suicide prevention charity, not an activist organisation.

  • We provide informed insights to government and to other interested bodies to support systemic change where it is factually warranted and when it is requested.

  • We get approached a few times a year by various governmental bodies and we’re always happy to help them see the issues and challenges that separating parents face.

  • Bottom line, we’re world beating leaders in the ‘keeping mum and dad around’ game, which comes from keeping a laser sharp focus on what we do best.

How do we know that PBB is using funds and/or operating wisely?

  • We are a constituted not for profit organisation with charitable status.

  • We have financial members who get to vote in their choice of board, and the board in turn oversee decisions made by PBB leadership.

  • The board meets once a month to review performance, make key decisions and ensure that operations align with overall objectives and agreed plans.

  • The key thing is a properly established constitution, external auditing, member vote and regular oversight.

  • Each year we hold an AGM and we answer to our members and subsequently issue a public annual report.

What is ‘Situational Distress’ and how does it link to suicide?

  • Suicide prevention traditionally tends to treat the phenomena as a ‘mental health’ issue. Undoubtedly, mental health is a factor. Naturally, this means that medical intervention automatically tends to follow; read therapy and medication as the most common interventions.

  • However, there is a growing body of evidence, academic and otherwise (PBB experience included) demonstrating that males in particular often become suicidal due to external non medical reasons. They respond to external ‘situational distress’ such as separation, custodial matters, debt, loss of employment or home. These are often also referred to as psycho-social factors.

  • If that external ‘situational distress’ is managed well, then the option of suicide tends to come off the table. i.e. Men in particular can and will suicide as a ‘logical option’ when no better alternative seems to exist. PBB therefore addresses the ‘situational distress’ that parents experience during separation by helping them to cope and to manage their situation by using practical tools to manage the ‘factor’, not by addressing underlying mental health; this removes the feelings of helplessness and isolation that most commonly plague those facing overwhelming challenges.

  • To get a sense of how important it is to understand this approach, in 2016 quality assurance work indicated that PBB was able to avert over 350 suicides in that year alone. This is world class performance in suicide prevention, and something of which we are very proud. Medicalised approaches to ‘mental health’ tend not to perform as well, comparatively, with separating parents – men in particular. This being because in the majority, their challenge is not mental health related.

I'm a psychologist / therapist / counsellor; I'd like to volunteer and help.

  • Whilst suicidal individuals are generally looked at through the lens of mental health, separating parents tend not to fall into this category. The previous FAQ addresses this in more detail.

  • We welcome those with medical qualifications in mental health to offer input and resources to PBB, but our approach is based on ‘peer to peer’ practical help, which builds resilience and negates the sense of isolation and hopelessness that afflicts this demographic.

  • With rare exception, we would not generally engage a medicalised professional to work as a facilitator at our support groups unless they too happen to be a peer (i.e. separated parent). More commonly, mental health professionals might offer occasional workshops to our attending parents, or help raise awareness and referrals .

How do I start a group near me or otherwise provide help for separating mums / dads?

Parents Beyond Breakup not only supports parents experiencing trauma through family breakdown and separation but also acknowledges the specific issue of parent-child contact and custody battles commonly termed ‘parental alienation’, a factor closely linked to stress, anxiety, depression, isolation and suicide in Australia.

Every child deserves to have a relationship with both of their parents …..