Not many people know this because, not taking my own advice I don’t like to talk about it, but I lost my dad to suicide 31 years ago. I thought today being World Mental Health Day might be an appropriate time to share my story.
Whether I realised it or not I spent most of my childhood thinking about why my dad did what he did, not really understanding how mental illness or severe depression can take such a grip on someone. As a child it’s difficult to get to grips of the reality of suicide and as an adult it’s quite a difficult subject to educate a child on. It’s only really recently when I’ve seen friends or close family members go through similar situations that now as an adult I can only begin to try and understand. His death affected my whole family and I also now realise that it affected my behaviour as I was growing up.
According the the Mental Health Foundation In 2017, 5,821 suicides were recorded in Great Britain. Of these, 75% were male and 25% were female. There is a clear difference in the numbers here, and many experts attribute the high percentage of male suicides to the fact that men will not talk about their problems and perhaps are less likely to seek help.
Its great to see mental health now getting so much media attention, posts and shares on social media and people using today as a platform to admit that they are suffering and to start the process of getting help. This was non-existent 31 years ago so it’s a positive step to see more and more investment from the government in mental health services to help people going through illnesses such as depression and anxiety. Some will argue it’s still not enough, and they’d be right, but it’s a start.
It’s also important to understand that there is no one size fits all approach. Anti-depressants may work well for some people and talk therapy or exercise work wonders for others. Societal pressures through social media, careers and finances are huge, we need mechanisms in place to be able to deal with these things appropriately when people find that they can’t cope. People don’t like to talk about their problems and bottling it up becomes part of the issue. The more we talk about and normalise mental health conditions hopefully the easier it will be for people who are suffering to get help. The very Britishness of ‘I’m fine thanks’ needs to stop and we need to understand that sometimes its ok to not be ok.
I am very fortunate to never have suffered from depression myself. I have however suffered from anxiety in the past. My cure came in the form of exercise, weight lifting to be precise. Two years on and my anxiety is practically non-existent, my confidence levels and fitness have soared and I’m less stressed than I have ever been. If I have a bad day and feel like crying, I drag myself to the gym and always end up leaving with a smile. It’s a great distraction for me and helps me set and achieve goals which then translate into other areas of my life. Weight lifting has quite literally changed my life.
I hope that more people will now get the help they need and access to the services that may just save their lives. Suicide doesn’t just affect the individuals taking their own lives but also that of their friends and families and those closest to them.
For those who feel this topic affects them please reach out to someone whether it be a friend, the Samaritans or a medical professional and to all of my friends and family and anybody that knows me, if you ever need someone to talk to, I’m here ready to put the kettle on and have a good chat and I only ever have the good tea and coffee in.
Useful websites and helplines:
- Mind, open Monday to Friday, 9am-6pm on 0300 123 3393
- Samaritans offers a listening service which is open 24 hours a day, on 116 123 (UK and ROI - this number is FREE to call and will not appear on your phone bill.)
- The Mix is a free support service for people under 25. Call 0808 808 4994 or email: email@example.com