Saturday 10 September is World Suicide Prevention Day.
Over the past year, I have been brutally honest with my battles with my mind, money and with employment. An element of my battle will, of course, be my childhood; being the sole carer of an alcoholic mother who then died from it, however all of this was amplified by 21st-century life and trying to contend with an ever-growing workload. It's no surprise that in the end, I snapped. As I've touched upon in here and on my own website, in June 2015 I tried to kill myself. I held on for three more months until the wheels finally fell off.
In 1973, security at the BBC took three hours to decide whether to let in an invited interview guest for Radio 4's Today programme who, as a patient himself, was founding a union for mental health patients. In 1974 the US Civil Service finally backed down and removed the question "Have you ever been mentally ill?" from Government employment forms. Only a few years earlier had the fearsome US mental institutions we now picture in nightmares had started to close after a court had ruled it was unjust to make inmate patients work for free. With the economic issues in the UK, institutes were closed but this was abandoning and leaving people without the education or just simply too ill to survive or thrive in Thatcher's Britain.
It took 66 years from the first powered flight to humanity landing on the moon. The pace of advancement is amazing. In 1976 the Queen sent her first email. A few years later the Commodore PET appears with an amazing 8KB of memory. Here we are 40 years later and I'm typing this post on a laptop which is smaller, lighter, half the price (ignoring inflation) with 8GB of RAM. In 40 years humanity's advancement means my computer is cheaper and has a mind boggling 1,048,576 times the memory. Our advancement also means I get several hundred more emails a week than Queenie did in 1976 with over 70% of them landing in my spam folder for their 'unique' content.
In 2015, more than half the ambulance call-outs to York university students are for self-harm. Tabloids no longer shout about teenage pregnancy rates but instead that more teens are self-harming than ever before. On my website, I've explained how some unfair and extremely rude behaviour nearly pulled down all my progress in my own EUPD/BPD battles.
"It's morally repugnant to neglect mental health, but it is also economically stupid, with its cost to the economy. The fact is, we're not smart on how we spend money. We spend a fortune, rather than preventing it at the start." - Norman Lamb MP
Over the past decade, the trend has become more and more pronounced; more young men are dying by than own hand than through drugs, traffic accidents or heart disease. For UK women, suicide rates dropped over the 1960s and into the 1970's and have stayed steadily low even dropping slightly lower. Suicide rates for UK men slightly dropped in the 1970s, partially credited due to cleaner engine exhausts, but steadily grew since creating the large gap between men and women. According to the World Health Organisation data, UK women have their lowest suicide rate ever whilst our men have shown little improvement compared to 40 or even 60 years ago.
Why is there a gap? How has the fight become so lopsided?
Or are Women just better when it comes to mental health or the stress of our modern world than men?
Are they better are confronting it, handling it and as such discussing it?
"in the medical community, you would never deny a diabetic his insulin." - Kristen Bell, Actress who plays Princess Anna in Frozen and has Depression and Anxiety.
I simply have no idea. I just know we need to do more.
In my blog I feature my own battles with depression, self-harm, anxiety, workplace discrimination, speaking in the media and public and being diagnosed with a mental health illness. Would my story been drastically different if I didn't have a penis? Or is it just that society may have treated me slightly differently and I may have been more willing to seek help sooner? Are women less affected by the stigma surrounding mental health or our medication? I read the blogs and watch the vlogs of fellow mental health advocates, sometimes with some envy at how well they can express and articulate their feelings, story and situation. My GCSEs and A Levels tell me that I am a smart enough person but is there something in my male nature or my nurture that prevents me and fellow men from achieving the same?
Or do we not generate the same response from the media or public? Is this discussion sexist for suggesting that women are better at emotional regulation or discussing and resolving mental health issues than men? I don't mean to cause offence but the evidence is clear to see; women have been beating this battle for decades.
We live in a country where more teenagers are self-harming than ever. We live in a country where the biggest killer of men is not guns, cars or cancer but suicide (men under 50, ONS). In the US, more people die from suicide than murder. The effects of mental illness in the U.S. cost nearly $210.5 billion a year in lost productivity.
In the UK, one person ends their own life every TWO hours. It's Time To Change.
Useful websites and helplines:
- 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.)
- Mind, open Monday to Friday, 9am-6pm on 0300 123 3393
- CALM (Campaign Against Living Miserably) is a registered charity, which exists to prevent male suicide in the UK. Call 0800 58 58 58 or visit thecalmzone.net
- The Mix is a free advice service for people under 25. Call 0808 808 4994 or email: firstname.lastname@example.org
- HopeLine runs a confidential advice helpline if you are a young person at risk of suicide or are worried about a young person at risk of suicide. Mon-Fri 10-5pm and 7pm-10pm. Weekends 2pm-5pm on 0800 068 41 41