Every two hours in the UK, a man takes his own life.
This means today, and every day of the year, 12 men in Britain will tragically cut their lives short.
Suicide statistics are shockingly high, and while we’re certainly talking about mental health more than ever, the numbers are proof enough there’s a long, long way to go.
The main link to suicide is depression.
Men with a diagnosed mental health condition are shown to be at a ‘higher risk of either attempting and completing suicide’, according to MentalHealth.org.uk.
‘Depression’ was a word which came into my life was when I was very young. I’d been told my uncle ‘suffered’ with it, but it was rarely spoken about and I didn’t truly understand what it meant.
One morning I went downstairs to be told the news my uncle had died, he’d killed himself. I soon came to realise how serious mental health was, and is.
Having spent years suffering and never seeking help, putting on a brave face and ‘carrying on’, my uncle was well-prepared for how, and when he was going to end his life.
He’d written a letter before he died, which was read out at his funeral, at my uncle’s request. It was his way of explaining why he’d taken his life, what day-to-day life had been like for him, how he was disappointed to wake up in the morning and how depression had consumed everything he did.
My uncle had put a brave face most days, taking his grandchildren out, spending time with the family and working hard, but underneath everything, he’d been struggling until it became too much for him.
His death was heartbreaking. That was in 2005, and despite coming a long way since then, suicide is one of the leading causes of death of men in Britain to this day.
The Samaritans Suicide Statistics Report 2017 showed there were 6,639 suicides in the UK and Republic of Ireland in 2015 (4,997 were men), with the highest suicide rate being men aged 40 to 44.
According to the Samaritans, men are ‘three times more likely’ to take their own lives than women in the UK.
Charity Movember UK said suicide is the biggest killer of men aged 15 to 44 and they’re urging men to talk and seek professional advice if they’re concerned about their mental health.
We know around 75 per cent of all suicides across the world are men, and in some countries such as the USA, this rate is higher.
We are taking a stand to put an end to this problem. At the Movember Foundation, we are empowering men worldwide with the tools and resources to be mentally healthy and well and navigate the tough times, surrounded by friends and family.
Suicide is a complex yet preventable public health issue. We believe there are many contributing factors. Historically the dominant masculinity is one that champions stoicism, independence, invulnerability and avoidance of negative emotions. In particular, self-reliance has been shown to be associated with negative health outcomes including suicidal thinking.
We are encouraging men across the world to be men of more words because we know that talking saves lives. This is a good place to start but if they are concerned they may be depressed, anxious or thinking about suicide it is important they speak to a healthcare professional.
Over the past few years, a number of men in the public eye have died by suicide, thrusting male suicide into the public eye; Chester Bennington, Alexander McQueen, Robin Williams, Chris Cornell, and Gary Speed all ended their lives. Some were open about their battles, others weren’t.
Chester, in particular, was open about his struggles not only in his song lyrics, but in interviews.
In one interview with KissFM, he used the platform to explain what dealing with depression was like for him, and how it clouded his judgement day-to-day:
I have a hard time with life. Sometimes it’s great, but a lot of times for me it’s really hard. No matter how I’m feeling, I always find myself struggling with certain patterns of behaviour.
I find myself stuck in the same thing that keeps repeating over and over again. And I’m like ‘How do I end this?’.
And it’s that moment when you’re in it and then you kind of separate yourself from that situation and you look at it for what it is and you’re able to do something about it. You’ve now broken out of that circle, that cycle.
The CALM helpline is now open 0800 585858. 5pm – midnight. Free, anonymous & confidential. Please RT if you know someone who may need it.
— CALM (@theCALMzone) September 8, 2018
Sean Hedley, 27, has been speaking out about the stigma attached to young men, and how he’d hidden his depression for more than three years because he was scared people ‘wouldn’t want to know’.
The 27-year-old is on a mission to help other men talk about their mental health battles and has been involved in setting up a group which runs Monday-to-Friday in Derby.
He told UNILAD:
When I was around 21, I started to struggle with depression. It was caused by a build up of things; a break up in a relationship and being in and out of jobs.
From Monday through to Friday I hid it, laughing and joking on the construction site I was working on. It was like nothing was wrong with me. Then, I’d be going out at weekends, every weekend, hiding the fact I had something going on in my head and I wasn’t willing to accept it myself.
I had this horrible feeling people would think less of me and at that age you just want to be as popular as possible. I didn’t believe people would understand what was going on in my head.
I bottled it all up for a couple of years and eventually I broke down. Every time I woke up it was like waking up in a ice cold room with dark walls. I didn’t want to get up in the morning for work and I didn’t want to keep living the nightmare. This went on until I was around 24 or 25 and I finally went to the doctors. I’d had enough of feeling down and out. I’d had enough of not being myself.
Sean recorded an honest, open video talking about his struggles, which he then shared on social media, saying ‘It’s time to talk’.
Watch his video here:
The support group, which Sean is involved in, was set up to help other men talk, and to provide them with a ‘safe zone’.
This gives people a platform to be able to open up and talk about their struggles, something Sean found helpful in his own experience.
He told us:
In January, I had a meeting with the Derby County Community Trust about setting up a group for males who suffer with mental health problems including stress, anxiety, depression, PTSD and so on.
I wanted to create a ‘safe zone’ for men across Derbyshire. The trust were extremely helpful and keen to get involved and get a group set up. We have named the group ‘TeamTalk’ and run sessions every Monday from 6pm until 8pm.
In June we had our first session and we haven’t looked back since! We are growing at a rapid rate and I’m extremely proud that we have the group up and running!
— Sean Hedley ⚽ (@SeanTHedley) September 4, 2018
A Movember spokesman said it’s important for men to not only prioritise their physical health, but their mental health as well:
Men need to think about building and strengthening their mental wellbeing. Mental well-being is like a bank account you need to frequent and ongoing deposits by doing things like spending time with friends, doing exercise, resting, managing stress well, eating well and having courageous conversations, about what’s really going on their lives.
And also keep an eye on withdrawals that come from relationship and financial problems, drug and alcohol excess and significant stress.
— Movember UK (@MovemberUK) September 12, 2018
Finally, Sean said:
We are all the same, we eat the same, drink and sleep the same. We all share the same emotions it’s just how we deal with the emotions that splits us apart, some people aren’t so good at it and some are.
We are in 2018 now, and I believe we should be the generation that tackles mental health.
If you’ve been affected by any of these issues, and want to speak to someone in confidence, please don’t suffer alone. Call Samaritans for free on their anonymous 24-hour phone line on 116 123.
In the US, the National Suicide Prevention Hotline is 1-800-273-8255.
In Australia, the crisis support service Lifeline is on 13 11 14. Hotlines in other countries can be found at Suicide.org.
Save a life. Take the free suicide prevention training provided by Zero Suicide Alliance today.