Do I believe everyone has the right to take their life? I think I probably do, but we're looking at this from the wrong end. What's unacceptable is that thousands of people reach a point where they feel that the physical or emotional pain they're suffering is so great that a painful death is better than a painful life, that they have no other option but to end it.
As anyone who's ever suffered from clinical depression will tell you, it's an expert at convincing you that your despair is eternal, and destined to oppress you for the rest of your days. And it was when I was in that horrifically black place, staring down the barrel of what I truly believed would only be a lifetime of wretched agony, that my thoughts turned to suicide.
I am convinced that it's the fact that suicide is so highly stigmatised that underlies the unhelpful response that suicidal individuals often evoke from others. After centuries of being branded as sinful, the shame and guilt attached to suicidal thoughts, feelings and actions have a powerful persistence. More than 50 years after suicide ceased to be illegal in the UK we continue describing those who take their own lives as having 'committed' suicide, as if it were still a criminal act. It's little wonder therefore that those who fall victim to this distressing and life threatening mental health issue tend to keep their darkest thoughts and feelings to themselves.
Being diagnosed with Mental Health, in particular Depression and Anxiety at the age of 14 years was not easy to cope with. I worried about telling other people that I had Mental Health, it was never taught on the school curriculum and it appeared to me at the time, that many wouldn't understand the condition.
You know the situation well. You sit down with some close friends, enjoying a good conversation for a few minutes. Then someone checks their phone. You see another friend pick up hers, then another friend follows suit and, in a moment, they are all silent; transfixed by the screens in front of them.
We are double blind to the issue, we've our fingers in our ears when suicide is mentioned, and this wanton deafness pops up when it comes to our attitudes towards men being weak. Better to blank both issues, most particularly when the two combine. And so we have a society where suicide accounts for the lives of more men aged 20-49 than any other single cause. Bigger than road deaths. I write this having watched Newsnight bemoan the 68 deaths a year from illegal highs, or around one death a week. By comparison 12 UK male deaths a day should warrant a series.
At the start of this year CALM named 2014 as 'Year of the Male', an opportunity to understand why 77% of suicides in the UK are men. A challenge has come back that even the name 'Year of the Male' is too political and would upset feminists. This has left me thinking long and hard. It seems strange that it's OK to talk about women's issues but not men's.
Dear Penny and Jim, I'm writing to thank you for having me on The Breakfast Show on BBC London last Thursday. I don't know if you remember me; you were running a news piece about the tragic death of Tallulah Wilson, a girl who suffered from an eating disorder and subsequently killed herself in late 2012...