I lay in bed, wide awake, sleep nothing more than a forlorn hope. Then it struck me, I have no interest in enduring another day of this. End it. End it all. Stop the suffering. For the first time in my life I plotted a way to kill myself. And I mean plotted. My plan was specific, calculated, it was achievable. No vague ideas for me.
Unfortunately, my first thoughts of suicide were not my last and had it not been for timely/lucky intervention at various points in the preceding months, I may well not be here today. So how did I find myself at the point of suicide? How did I get that far along? Primarily, by not telling anybody that I was on the way there. Sure, I was having therapy, trying my best to confront issues I’d never dealt with before, but that was with a stranger. My words and feelings were left behind, confined within the four walls where I spilled them. I wasn’t sharing them with my friends or family, to them I remained a closed book.
Maybe it was my upbringing? Maybe it was my job? Whatever it was, I was a man who did his best to avoid any show of weakness. Weakness was dangerous. Weakness could get you hurt. I believed that displaying my emotions was the biggest weakness, so I bottled them, pushed them aside and left them to be dealt with another day. Eventually though, the time came that I ran out of bottles. My emotions ran free, overwhelming me, drowning me from within.
I would suspect that there are many men out there just like me. Men unable, unwilling or simply too afraid to show emotion. Men do not want the stigma of terms like ‘mental illness’ or ‘depression’ hanging over their head. Men are strong. Men keep it together, they are providers, warriors. Men are misguided. Men commit suicide.
The latest figures released in 2015 by the Office for National Statistics show that 78% of suicides in the UK are men. That’s over three quarters of all suicides. That’s staggering. Suicide is also the leading cause of death for men my age. In England and Wales, 24% of all deaths for men aged 20 – 34 years old is suicide. Otherwise healthy men, are being cut down in their prime by suicide – and therefore issues with their mental health. Yet nobody really seems to be talking about it.
If you listen to the typical conversation of any group of men, you are likely to hear discussion about general health; exercise and healthy eating, or illness; flu and stomach bugs, or even sporting injuries; muscle tears, sprains, broken limbs… yet you wont hear talk of mental health or illness. There will be talk of death by cancer, disease or road traffic accidents… but no mention of suicide.
So how do we begin to address this problem, this epidemic? Firstly, we talk about it. If we have problems, we share them. If we know somebody going through a tough time, we ask them how they’re feeling. And if they tell us they’re depressed or anxious, we don’t baulk at the subject, we confront it. I know that can be difficult for men, it doesn’t appeal to our sense of machismo, but it’s time to step up guys.
Let me appeal to the logical, grizzly, manly man side of your brain. Imagine that you are shipwrecked on a desert island with a group of people. You’ve got a nice collection of firewood, but it’s starting to rain. The hut you’ve built to house the firewood is beginning to flood. You look strong, so the group asks you to hold the firewood to keep it dry. They start to pile it on… and on… and on. Until you begin to realise that you can’t hold any more, you’ve reached the limit of your strength and any second now you are going to drop it all onto the floor to get soaked. What would you do? Would you ask them to stop loading you up? Would you explain that for the benefit of the group, you need others to share the load? You would. So why should your mental health be any different? Why should you allow yourself to be loaded up until you break? Speak up, for your own sake and that of others around you.
The next step is to raise the message within the public consciousness, we do that by supporting charities like Mind, by fundraising or sharing blogs like this. By breaking down the stigma attached to suicide and mental health, we make it easier for people to open up about their problems. We also help support and expand the services offered to those who are suffering. The more help available, the more people who can be helped.
I say all of this from a position of experience, because the best thing that I did for myself was to open up. Only when I shared my emotions, did I begin to feel the load lighten and in turn spy a light at the end of the tunnel. Now, I realise that it was the strongest act I’ve ever performed.
*This blog was written for Mind and also published here (with some slight amendments for the Mind website)*
Please check out my blog at: https://stevensaysblog.wordpress.com
I am raising money for Mind, please find out more and sponsor me at: https://uk.virginmoneygiving.com/team/MindTeam6