July 21, 2016

Suicide in men is one of the greatest problems of our time and yet one of the least talked about topics. What many don’t realise is that suicide is the leading cause of death in men under 50 despite the fact twice as many women get diagnosed with depression. Just have a little think about those two facts for a few seconds. It’s not cancer, or road accidents, or some other topic the media loves to run with like global warming that is killing men, it’s suicide.

The trouble is that ‘suicide’ and ‘mental health’ aren’t sexy topics that the tabloids can print on their front pages with some terrible pun of a headline to churn out copies. They want stories that sell. They want to talk about Trump’s hair or Kim Kardashian’s latest nude selfie, and all the while the male suicide rate sits quietly in the background, as big a problem as ever but overshadowed by the irrelevance that gets printed and Tweeted. But this isn’t a problem that we can simply sweep under the rug and let it be dealt with by someone else. 

The problem is with masculinity. Men are traditionally, and archaically, seen as the ‘breadwinners’, the strong ones who support their family while the ‘stay at home mother’ looks after the kids. But life just isn’t like that anymore. While there are still issues of inequality throughout the world, we see women striving to break through the stereotypes in place by achieving great things, but we don’t see this same commitment from men to opening up.

Very few men like to admit their feelings or emotions or show any sign of weakness. They fear that once they open up they will be seen as less masculine and weak. They’re thinking like the primates we once were; “Who will want to marry me if I talk about my feelings?! Does talking about depression make me a woman? Does writing about my own experiences with suicide make me any less of a man?" Of course not, and the people who think it does need to pull themselves out of the time warp from 600 years ago and get with the 21st Century. 

Suicide needs to be spoken about on two fronts. 

Firstly, the media. The media loves talking about the Zika Virus, or Ebola, or whatever other Walking Dead-esque disease it is that they can scare the population with. I’m not saying these issues aren’t important, but more talk about suicide could have a huge impact. This doesn’t mean giving a newspaper column to any “I was on TV once, please listen to me, please!” ‘celebrity’ like Katie Hopkins who, despite never suffering from depression, once wrote on the topic that “People with depression do not need a doctor and a bottle of something that rattles. They need a pair of running shoes and fresh air”. Ah damn, if only I’d bought a new pair of running shoes I could have saved myself two years of depression, thanks Dr. Hopkins! It’s not okay that people with a large platform are allowed to comment on issues they have no understanding of, especially when these are issues people are physically taking their own lives over.

Secondly, we need to have a bigger conversation amongst ourselves. Let the men that you are friends with know that they can be honest with you, about anything, and it won’t change your relationship. If your sole aim in life is to be a group of ‘top lads’, know that this is still possible by being open and emotional. Being honest about what you’re going through makes you so much more of a man than you may know, because it takes real courage to stand up and say something when the chips may be stacked against you. If we start a greater conversation around suicide, do away with the stigma and let men know that it’s okay to admit how they’re really feeling, they will seek the help they need. We all have a responsibility to tackle the silence that leads to suicide. 

If you’re struggling, open up to someone. Suicide and depression feed off the secrets, and one conversation can kick-start recovery in a way you might think impossible; it did with me. And if you know someone who has or may have depression, don’t be afraid to talk about it – it could save their life. 

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Comments

George, WOW!! Great blog mate

George, WOW!! Great blog mate and very powerful. I have depression/anxiety and still find it difficult to admit to certain people I struggle. I have a great wife and family who when the dip hits I always talk.

Thanks!

Hey Mike! Thanks for your comment, I really appreciate it :) It's definitely tough - it took me almost a year to open up to anyone (including my family and my girlfriend), after which time I still kept it a secret from the majority of people. As it became necessary for me to tell more and more people I realised there were more and more people willing to support me, so now I'm very open about it all. But what I noticed was the huge lack of understanding and knowledge with mental health issues, which is made especially worse in men who are told to "man up" - hence the reason I wrote this post to try and get a bit of a conversation going around the subject. Thanks again for your comment - I hope you're doing well now, always here if you need to chat! George

George's message

Hi George well done on such an honest and powerful article ...very poignant for me as my brother died by suicide in February this year. I am still crying daily and the brother I remember wouldn't have done what he did I really think it was a cry for help. He had given up and yes I agree talking helps but he was inconsistent with his talking to his gp one day fine next day not...he definitely didn't know where to go with or what to do with the blackNess that was suffocating his heart. I really think changing lifestyle habits are a start ..I know as I suffer from depression also and due to my brothers death I have changed my own habits. Self medication is a huge problem for sufferers with depression whether it be drink drugs etc as we get our dopamine kick from abusing these so talking while walking and taking dopamine rich foods and supplements are definitely a good start..I will keep doing this daily in memory of my brother Ray who gave up fighting but who has made huge changes in so many people's lives since his death because we all loved him so much and he lit up everyone's life he should still be here. Best of luck to you George and we'll done again ;-)

Thanks :)

Hey Evelyn, I'm really sorry to hear about your brother, I've lost a friend to suicide and I know that it's incredibly difficult. I couldn't understand why they did it, but it wasn't until I began suffering from depression & suicidal thoughts that I understood how & why he did what he did. I agree self-medication is one of the worst routes to go down, I did this a lot for a few months for a short release but it ultimately just made things worse - it's good that you've cut this out, I instantly improved once I had - even just having one glass of wine at night made me feel bad! While therapy, GPs, talking groups etc can be a great help, you're right, there is so much you can do yourself at home. I used a daily combination of cutting out alcohol, exercise & meditation, getting out of bed the SECOND I woke up so that I couldn't linger, keeping my sugar levels up and taking walks in the park and it all really helped - it's just small steps at the beginning :) If you haven't, I'd really recommend reading 'Claire Weekes - Self-help for your nerves', it's an amazing book, has some great tips and really helped to kickstart my recovery. I'm sorry again about your brother but it's brilliant that you're speaking up about it, raising awareness and trying to help others - it sounds like you're doing a lot of good :) George

Suicide & Depression

George - thank you for sharing. I have suffered from depression for a lot of years now and I had a suicide attempt about 3 years ago which thankfully didn't take. I am very open about my depression and suicide attempt all the time now. I was quite surprised to see a lot of men in the support group I had to attend when I was off work because I was used to men not discussing their feelings. I say keep up the good work, keep talking about it, writing about it and hang on. It isn't an easy disease to deal with and I don't know that I will ever say I am cured from depression. People don't talk enough about it and like you said it is not sexy enough to get the headlines. I make it my mission to talk and write about it all the time. All the best to you and I look forward to reading more of your blogs.

Thanks Cathy

Hey Cathy, Thanks for your message. With regards to your suicide attempt - I've been there as well but I draw the positives from it now, I use it to spur me on and drive me because I think that if I could be that low and get through it, then not a lot else can phase me anymore...it helps to try and draw the positives out of every situation that you can :) It's good to hear there were so many men at your support group - I have a hard time getting my male friends to open up to me about these issues but I think in general men are finding it easier to talk now! It's great that you write and talk about it as well - I'd love to read any of your pieces if you have any links? I'm glad you're feeling better :) I agree that we'll probably never be 'cured' of depression, but knowing how to effectively manage it now means we'll be able to handle it much better should it rear its ugly head again anytime soon! Thanks again, George

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