When you think about the biggest killer in men under the age of 45 in the UK, you imagine heart disease, a car accident possibly and quite sadly cancer. The last thing that will come to mind is that the biggest killer in young men, is young men themselves.
12 men will kill themselves today – that’s one every single 2 hours – that’s 84 men a week. 84 you say? More than that number will sadly have a fresh new heart-break by suicide this week.
More than that number will lose sons, grandsons, uncles, nephews, a colleague, a friend and acquaintance you’d usually chat to in your local shop. Faces will disappear from people’s everyday routines, from people’s future plans, from table settings – for the sheer fact they felt like there was no other way out. More people than you think will be affected by suicide and mental health this week.
84 sculptures were erected above the ITV studios building this week, raising awareness of those lost faces. Each linked to and created by families who have lost male figures in their lives to suicide, I can’t help but praise the work that’s somehow made me feel a little less lonely in the world.
Today marks my fathers 51st birthday, sadly he never even saw his 38th. Just like those 84 men that will die to suicide this week, he saw a permanent end to a temporary problem.
I wish I could call him up, sit with him in the local pub and just listen to him. I wish I could cuddle him, sit on his lap like the 11-year-old that lost him and basically tell him that things would eventually turn out okay – more importantly that I am here and that I’m now old enough to understand.
Understanding is only a fraction of the problem – ignorance is the main. Living with this constant iron anchor in your heart is the most suffocating, excruciating thing you could ever imagine. Feeling like you’re understood is another. I can’t help but think if my Dad knew that I understood what he was going through, that I was willing to listen – I would not be sitting here without him over half of my lifetime later.
My Dad has been dead for over half of my life now. He’s missed more birthdays lying as a pile of ash than he ever saw living – he’s missed parents evenings, school concerts, GCSE results, A Level results, graduations.. accomplishments. Most of all, he’s missed the tiny little things the regular Joe takes for granted – trips to the pub, sitting watching shit TV on the sofa or just even knowing how my day has gone.
People say 84 as a number is ‘sensationalist’ – that those figures that have been powerfully erected are ‘disturbing’ and ‘insensitive’ – it’s a very sad fact but suicide is disturbing, suicide is not ‘case sensitive’ to people – this is happening to people like your neighbours your work colleagues, the person you pass every morning on the pavement during your dog walk – suicide happened to me, but it could happen to you one day if something isn’t done about it. There is nothing sensationalist about those 84. 84 is a gut wrenching, harrowing, disturbing number.
Everyday in the shoes of someone suffering with mental illness is disturbing. It’s exhausting. Sometimes you feel like the days aren’t worth living anymore. Living in the shoes of someone that’s lost a parent, son, friend, brother to the stigmatised ‘S’ word? – well that’s not much different either.
Did you know that 8% of people that are affected by suicide will go on to take their own lives? That statistic absolutely terrifies me.
I’m not one to shy away from the fact I suffer with mental health problems – there have been days in my past where I’ve gone to bed and felt like I didn’t want to wake up the next morning – or the morning after that. Although widely unknown, for a brief time at university, I even took to self harm to try and deal with the crashing world around me.
Luckily, although anxiety and panic attacks still dominate a lot of my days, I’m thankfully far away from that dark place. The difference in me compared to my father? I was lucky to realise that I had that support network around me, I knew that I had the people to speak to – to confide in – that’s helped me to delve down, realise a little bit of my worth and work through it. I still get bad days however.
I guess what I’m trying to say is that suicide will never be an easy topic to discuss but it’s a conversation that NEEDS to happen. More so, it’s a topic that needs LISTENING to. I can’t help but think my father would be celebrating his birthday today if he’d have been listened to, if he felt he could open up to someone.
So many men are taught to be ‘tough’, ‘man up’, ‘be a big boy, don’t cry’ – people need to realise that we’re programming our men to shut off from their emotions, to be quiet, to not seek help.
Suicide CANNOT be the silent killer any longer because 84? That’s a real disturbing number.