Gus Worland documentary Man Up tackles the crisis in male suicide rates

Gus Worland is encouraging men to speak up about mental-health issues in <i>Man Up</i>. Photo: Supplied
Gus Worland is encouraging men to speak up about mental-health issues in Man Up. Photo: Supplied
Gus Worland with members of Australian veterans' support group Mates4Mates.

Gus Worland with members of Australian veterans' support group Mates4Mates.

Gus Worland is not afraid to cry.

In fact, he cried so much during the filming of Man Up, the new ABC documentary about male mental-health issues and suicide, that a few instances didn't even make it through to the final cut.

Worland, one third of Triple M's blokefest that is the Grill Team breakfast show, says expressing his bare emotions is the core of what the show is about.

"I've always been in touch with that side of me and I've never been ashamed to show true emotion, and I'm known throughout my friends and family to be that type of person," he says. "I knew that I would go to many places that would bring that side of me out and I think it would have been wrong for any host of the show to have been anything but totally true to those emotions."

He says the filmmakers told him they'd cut a few of the crying scenes, but only because it didn't fit in with the general path of storylines at particular times.

"I said certainly don't do it for my sake, because this is the whole point, we need people to change what it takes to be a man," he adds.

Man Up is deeply affecting, heart-breaking and shocking in its reflection of the extent and manner of mental-health issues affecting men. Suicide is the leading cause of death in Australia for people aged 15-44. Last year, out of a total of 3027 deaths by suicide, 2292 were men. Men are much less likely to seek help than women; research shows that masculine stereotypes reinforce the avoidance of negative emotions.

The title, Man Up, doesn't mean toughen up, it means open up, speak up, and it's an attempt to show men that it's OK to show a side of them that's not the stoic, tough-as-nails rock-solid macho guy. Instead, it aims to encourage men to understand that sharing burdens, talking about problems and revealing vulnerabilities is not a sign of weakness.

Worland's journey across the three-part series, the first of which airs during Mental Health Week, sees him travel the nation, meeting men's support groups in realms including construction workers, rural communities and returned soldiers. He visits a Lifeline office, talks to academic specialists, and even visits his teenage son's school in an attempt to uncover what makes young men tick and what troubles them.

There are many upbeat moments too. The show cleverly balances light and shade to avoid making the show too difficult to watch. Leveraging off Worland's natural charm and humour, there are sidelines into naked yoga, GQ fashion shoots and speed-dating.

Worland also brings to the doco a very personal story. In 2006, he lost a close friend, Angus, to suicide, and still struggles to understand why his mate was unable to reach out.

It's one of the reasons why Worland has given himself the task of becoming an ambassador for men's feelings, shifting between blokey banter and tears to demonstrate that expressing the full gamut of emotions is not only acceptable, is not only encouraged, but is absolutely essential.

"We shouldn't feel that we have to suppress emotion," he says. "We should totally let it go, because we know if we bottle it up it won't be good for our mental health, so I was totally at ease with it all. I hope that a lot of other blokes see that and go, well if that big boofhead can do it, then I'll be able to do it.

"It's not being weak and it's not being pathetic and it's not being girly. It's actually being really, really powerful and strong for you not to care how people perceive you. Just literally be how you want to be and if that means have a cry, then you go and have a cry."

Lifeline 13 11 14

WHAT

Man Up

WHEN

ABC, Tuesday, 8.30pm

This story Gus Worland documentary Man Up tackles the crisis in male suicide rates first appeared on The Sydney Morning Herald.