I have never considered suicide. I want to put that out there straight away. Yes I have often thought ‘is this really worth it?’, or ‘why can’t I have a different life?’ when feeling particularly low, but I’ve never thought about ending things all together. There are probably a number of reasons for this outlook, such as the fact that my illness is not as severe or debilitating as other sufferers of depression, and its probably accurate to suggest that those who feel that suicide is the only option are severely ill, and suffering deep emotional turmoil. Another possible reason is that my idealised desire to get better, have a happier mind set and sense of fulfillment, is my overwhelming priority, and consequently I have no thoughts of ending my life, but rather changing the one I have for the better. Whilst this may seem like a pipe dream for the majority of the time, it is enough of a glimmer to keep on going. It may seem obvious, but taking ones life means giving in to the idea that there is no hope of getting better, and I can never envisage getting to that point where all other options have expired.
This 2015 article from the Guardian offers a stark reality of suicide rates in the UK, and in particular those amongst men. The shocking statistics show that suicide is the UK’s biggest cause of death in men under 45, and that in 2014 there were on average 12 suicides per day. 75% of people who take their own life are men, which I was rather surprised to read, but perhaps less shocked that 90% of suicide victims suffer from a mental illness or psychological difficulties. The article suggests that men’s reservations about discussing thoughts and feelings, combined with a sense of embarrassment and inadequacy, plays a significant role in the high rate of suicide. Jane Powell from CALM (Campaign Against Living Miserably ) gives credence to this, stating that “we see from the research that men feel they shouldn’t need such support, that they are failing as a man when feeling suicidal.” I recognise the credibility in this argument based upon my own experience, as it was extremely difficult to open up initially about my thoughts and feelings, and the illness in general, and I find that the written form is the only method that allows me to be 100% honest and open. I find it significantly more challenging to talk about the issue in person, and I often clam up, and claim everything is ok in order to avoid the embarrassment or awkward questioning.
Another pertinent consideration, that I can relate to personally, is that its verging on the impossible for men to open up to other male friends. I find it inordinately more attainable and reassuring to open up to female friends/colleagues, rather than to males. As the father of a suicide victim states in the article “as a bloke, if you go out with your mates, you drink a few pints, you talk sport, you might moan about the missus, but you won’t talk about your feelings, about how you can’t cope. Your mates would run a mile. They don’t know how to talk themselves. Men don’t, it is not seemly”. Whist I believe he is being slightly flippant, and overgeneralising and stereotyping the issue, I do support the perception that the predicted reaction of other people is a significant cause in the bottling up of thoughts, and precipitates an inability to open up about the internal struggles that may be being suffered. Despite the fact that perceptions have significantly improved, even the last 15 years or so, and stigmas are slowly starting to be challenged, the brutal truth is that men don’t talk to other men about these types of issues. I certainly never have, with the exception of close family, and would feel deeply uncomfortable and disconcerted, which is why its fortunate that most of my friends and colleagues are girls!
The 64 million dollar question is what more can done? I truly believe that the most beneficial and potentially life changing way forward is to raise awareness, break down the stigma attached to mental health, and encourage role models to inspire those who may feel they they are alone, and encourage them to start talking about their illness. Organisations like CALM are crucial, and we need to give them as much support and funding as we can. Similarly, if more celebrities, or people in the public eye, come forward and describe their experiences with mental health, then I am convinced it would lead to sufferers gaining the confidence and incentive to talk about their experiences, without fear of embarrassment, isolation, or ridicule. These figures of inspiration can also be on a more local level, such as ambassadors within schools, workplaces, clubs etc. They can act as a beacon of hope for those who are unable, or unwilling, to open up about their experiences. A significant reason for starting this blog was to try and create awareness, and also as a way of talking through and examining my thoughts and feelings, which I wouldn’t have the confidence to do in a verbal or one on one setting . It’s undeniable that the rates of suicide won’t fall if nobody is talking about the difficult issues, and meaningful honest conversations are crucial and severely lacking in schools, workplaces and society in general. The ultimate goal is to get people to a place where rather than living to die, they are dying to live.