Keeping your head above the waves

By Sammy Jenkins

There is a silent killer in the midst of our streets, our schools, our workplaces and behind the closed doors of our neighbourly counterparts. Its silence lies in the fact that people don’t talk about it. It is not cancer or heart disease. It is suicide and it’s the biggest killer in men under the age of forty-five in the UK.

Over 6000 people a year die to suicide in the UK, with men amounting for 78 per cent of that total. Over three quarters of all suicides recorded in the UK are men.

Heads Above the Waves is a non-profit community interest company founded by 25-year old Si Martin. A drummer for the band Junior, he has a story, just like everyone else. His difference? He speaks out about the things that so many of us like to hide away, most importantly; he gave up his previous career to get others to do the same.

‘I pretty much live for music. I guess all of that stems from my youth. I struggled with self-harm and undiagnosed depression as a teenager – often finding myself feeling frustrated that people didn’t understand me and ended up taking out my frustration on myself.’

That’s kind of how HATW came about. ‘We’re a company with charitable aims… We raise awareness of self-harm in young people, promoting creative and positive ways of dealing with bad days’. Talking openly about self-harm and depression, HATW try to reduce the stigma around mental health, allowing people to feel that they are able to ask for help and support, but most importantly; where to find such support.

‘The original idea was that I was going to make band merch with a message like ‘pop-punk saved my life’ and donate the proceeds to organisations like the Samaritans. I went for some funding, and they said they’d give us the money to make the shirts, if the profits went towards running our own social enterprise, rather than supporting an existing organisation, and I guess the rest is history!’

Through their online channels, their workshops at schools, presence at gigs and various festivals and their merch with a message, Si explained that HATW want to be where the young people are; talking to people in a way that’s not cold or clinical, nor childish or condescending. ‘Just real talk. Sometimes life’s hard, and bad things happen to good people, but there are positive ways of coping.’ Si explains that things do get better and people aren’t alone in this. ‘By constantly sharing that in as many ways as possible, I think we’re starting to make a bit of an impact’. Hope and help does exist, people just need a little inspiration when they’re feeling low.

In regards to men, Si believes there is still that macho ‘stiff upper lip’ perpetuation and that men do need to talk about what’s affecting them – however big or small. ‘I think there’s still a lot of work to do to get men to realise that talking or admitting a struggle isn’t a sign of weakness.’

However talking about it is not the only thing we need to do. ‘I’d like to see more of an approach like HATW has; encouraging people to find the positive coping techniques that work for them. Talking more, but also building up resilience, and an ability to consciously do something positive that you know will make you feel better’.

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