Tuesday, 10 November 2015
Male Suicide : Looking After Our Lads
So like many of us in the UK I watched "Professor Green: Suicide and Me", where he talked about the loss of his father and the circumstances surrounding his death and the emotional effect it had on him; I watched it with my husband and both of us found it heartbreaking to watch but it was such an eyeopener.
Up until I watched it if someone has asked me what the biggest killer of men under 45 was, I would have very wrongly said "liver sorosis from binge drinking", or "car accident from reckless or drunk driving", or "overdose from the use of illegal and legal highs", I would have never said "suicide". The fact that every two hours a man in the UK will take his life because he sees no other way out is terrifying and heartbreaking. But I would have never thought of it, I like most people had bought into something so dangerous- we as a society are programmed so deeply to see young men as reckless, selfish and aggressive members of society when really men under forty-five are not all like that and one of the major factors that contribute to their "classic" behaviour is the perception and standard of what a man ought to be that we thrust upon them from a young age. They are drilled to think they are meant to be:
- physically strong
- emotionally stable (or challenged)
- driven and successful.
- the provider
Men are tricked into believing that if they aren't "tall, dark and handsome, with a great career, education, humour and bank balance" that they are failing at life. As a child I wanted to be a boy so much, but when I got to teenage years I saw what "being a man" really meant in this day and age and I knew it wasn't all about being tough. Things for women have been and still are (though there is a long way to go until equality is achieved) improving in the last couple of decades but things for men are seen as "if it ain't broke, don't fix it" and the generations now are looking back at their dads, uncles and granddads and seeing nothing but (what they see as) strength; "real" men with that "stiff upper lip" mentality and they look at their sons and younger brothers and realising that emotions aren't evil and don't burn, asking for help isn't sin but it is hard to change your ways when everyone around you is scared too. Scared of not being manly enough, scared of not being like everyone else, scared of others looking at them differently.
Men have something quite unique to them as a gender; they possess this sense of camaraderie that women just cannot seem to replicate, and I honestly believe this is where it needs to start, guys, you need to use this to help one another. You need to make it okay for you to come to one another and say "mate, I'm not doing so well" and listen to what they have to say. Make it okay to man hug, open up. We need a more open dialogue between you guys. I'm not saying sit in parks and bawl your eyes out, I'm saying meet up for drinks and let them chat with you. You need to be there for each other, when you accept that emotions exists and it is okay to share them; everyone else will follow suit. You have to support eachother and show a united front. When you as a gender make it okay to have a chat about your problems and discuss mental health, people will start to change their view.
We need to stop thinking that feelings, emotions and communication skills are female traits. They are not gender specific traits, they are actually tools to help as humans - emotions such as anger and hatred, come hand-in-hand with love and happiness. Why do we limit men to the emotional range of a thimble?
Men have dark and sad pasts too - according to Mankind Counselling 3 in 20 men are victims of sexual violence/abuse. 4% of males aged 16-59 are victims of domestic abuse. Though figures are uncertain statistics from the most recent NSPCC survey shows that of the individuals interviewed 0.2% of under 11 males suffered sexual violence and 3.1% of 11-17 year olds suffered severe sexual violence. Of the 78,000 estimated rapes committed in the UK, 9000 of them are thought to involve male victims.
I have a baby son. I have a teenage brother. I have an adult husband. They are males at entirely different stages of life. Three family members that for others, many, many, many others are in reality part of those statistic. Three lives that are directly linked to mine in many ways and would be devastated if anything were to happen to them.
Depressions is rarely something that comes alone, it likes to host parties at your place, without telling you for all its mental health friends and they all arrive uninvited and start trashing your house. They don't leave when you ask, they don't clean up after themselves. They start fights and ruin your things. Something like intrusive thoughts seem so trivial to those who don't understand it but (in the most simple terms) they are like having a really annoying TV advert jingle in your head but instead of singing the phone number to a car insurance company, it's thoughts that at times can be quite disturbing and distressing, you keep trying to stop singing the jingle but it stays in your head. OCD compulsions seem stupid, for instance one of my compulsions is locking the front door in a certain way, if I don't lock it perfectly I will lock it twice more so it have been locked three times, because even numbers make me highly uncomfortable and then lock it one more time. If I don't get it perfect and I leave it I don't feel safe. The door is still locked but I won't feel safe, all I will be able to think is that the creepy guy that lives in the next building is going to come and slaughter me. The reality is he is at work, he doesn't even know me and he is most likely a lovely person who wouldn't hurt a fly but I can't help but think he is going to harm me, leaving my husband a widower and my son motherless. All because I didn't lock that door exactly right. It seems trivial but when it makes me feel like I am actually in danger, it isn't trivial.
Mental health is so important. Looking after your wellbeing should be in the top three on your list of shit that you need to get done but in this day and age it can be so difficult to find time to make sure you are okay. There are so many avenues that you can take to start you on the track of feeling like you, normal happy you. You don't need to be ashamed of feeling the way you are and needing/asking for help.
When someone I know really well, a friend or family member, is working through something and I can tell they aren't them self, I will ask; if they aren't ready to talk - I give them time. If that time is more that a few weeks then I tell them this is not good for them, that they need to start trying to talk about it. Write a list, write a letter to them self, a letter to me - anything that gets what they are keeping inside out into the real world. If it doesn't work I start with tough love. We aren't going until you start talking, I care about you and I want to help but unless you tell me what is wrong I cannot begin to help. If they still aren't talking to me then I go to a person I know they trust and tell them that I am worried. I haven't gotten past this stage before but if I was to need to take further action, I think I would get each person that cares about them to write a short note, attached to a small meaningful gift, I would send all of it to them with a list of everyones numbers. After that I think it would have to be a full on intervention. But thats me. The people I have around me and care about know me and know that I am a loving, hands on person. You need to find what you think would help your loved one or friend.
I can promise you that I know what mind set you have to be in to make that decision. The planning, the internal argument and reasoning. Please, please, please just stop, just stop and listen to me for just one second. I can tell you that each and every one of your problems - no matter how big or small, no matter how hopeless or desperate it seems there are ways of solving it, they may not be easy or quick but they are solvable. You are not a burden. You are not better off dead. You are not "doing them a favour". There are people that will miss you, wish they had done more, think about you everyday and miss you beyond anything they could imagine. You are not worthless and pathetic. You are not unfixable. You are not damaged beyond repair. You are so much more than you think you are right now. You just need time. You need help. You need support.
I don't know you but I know that you are a human being and you should not be feeling like taking your life is the only option you have.
Things get better, it is a long and hard process but it is worth it. If you end your life you will never meet your perfect partner and fall in love. You will never get to have you perfect family. You will never fulfil all of the dreams you had as a child. If you end your life you just kill all hope of ever finding the happiness you deserve. You will never know.
Don't do it. Please get help. Please talk to someone, anyone. Please keep trying.
If you are or have been feeling suicidal, depressed or you feel you are struggling to cope, seek help. Having a bad day isn't the end of the world but of you can't remember the last time you had a good day, you should see someone - a doctor, therapist, parent, partner, friend.
You can call Samaritans on 116 123. You can go to your local GP and organise an appointment. Just anything. Please.
Things will get better, you just need to take the first step and when things get difficult keep moving forward.
So come on lads, let's stop two guys every hour from killing themselves. Lets get talking. It starts with you.
With all my love,