Last night I caught a documentary on BBC3 about Suicide.
It was a very personal documentary hosted (is that the right word?) by UK rapper Professor Green who lost his own father to Suicide.
Not only was it very eye opening it was also very sensitively handled and in some ways inspiring.
Suicide is the biggest killer of men under 45 in Britain
It got me thinking about my own life. The people I have known and lost and why there is such a lack of understanding and communication on a subject that quite obviously needs more attention.
In the documentary Stephen (Pro Green) spoke to family members about his father and discovered that there were a lot of combining factors that eventually lead to him taking his own life.
It was refreshing to see someone who generally puts himself across as one of the tough guys, actually open up and be honest about his feelings and what the impact of his fathers death had on him.
The fact that it’s refreshing just underlines one of the biggest issues, in that men, for years and years, have been told by the media and so on that they need to “Man Up”, “Be Strong”, and all that shit.
You’ve got so much to live for
Generally I like to think I am not one to judge. I now realise though, that in the past I have been somewhat guilty of just that.
My problems with suicide were always two-fold…
- How could they be so selfish – not thinking about the people they leave behind
- Rationally how could anyone think taking their life is better than being alive
Let me tackle these individually…
How could they be so selfish
Something I had never really understood was why people didn’t consider the feelings of those they left behind.
Surely they don’t enjoy hurting the people they love so why would they want to do such a thing?
What I learned last night was that often it’s quite the reverse.
People get to a place where they feel taking their life will actually make everything easier for the people they love. They feel like a burden on their loved ones and think that by killing themselves they will relieve them of that burden.
It’s hard for me to relate to this point of view, but then that’s because despite the various down points in my life I have always been the ultimate optimist (to a fault sometimes).
This is why we need more communication though because last night I learned a lot about how a suicidal person thinks and feels and with all that weight on them all the time it’s no wonder they feel like it would just be easier to make the hurt stop.
When you can only see one exit you’re going to take it. The fact that there are 50 other exits behind you that you can’t see, is irrelevant.
Rationally how could anyone think taking their life is better than being alive
The key word here being rationally.
Usually suicidal people are in a place where rationality is skewed. They feel isolated and alone even when they aren’t and they feel like they literally have no other option.
What makes this worse for men is again that key term rationally.
Men in general tend to try and rationalise things all the time. We want to try and justify why we feel a certain way rather than just accept that we do and get on with it.
This along with many other factors means that the suicide rate in men under 45 is about 4 times that of women.
From this point on I intend to be a lot less judgemental of those who feel suicidal.
Sadly, author Harper Lee passed away today, albeit aged 89 and I’m reminded of that famous quote from her seminal book “To Kill a Mockingbird”…
You never really understand a person until you consider things from his point of view . . .
until you climb into his skin and walk around in it.
Men for decades have been told by the media and by generations before them that to be a man you must be strong.
Don’t cry, don’t show your emotions, keep it all inside and be the one others lean on. A Problem shared is a problem for two people.
This of course is a total crock of shit!!
I am driven very much by my emotions, you only have to see the state of me after watching Bridge to Terabithia to realise that!!
In the 80s it was called “being in touch with your feminine side”. Fortunately gender stereotypes like this are beginning to be broken down now, but there are still thousands of men out there who believe a man should be strong, always.
This is a lot like expecting a water balloon to just keep filling up with water indefinitely. Eventually it’s going to burst if you don’t start letting some of the water out!
We’re only human and as such we need to vent, we need to let things out and we need to release pent up emotions or like the afore mentioned balloon we’re likely to pop… metaphorically speaking.
There is a real stigma surrounding suicide. Similar to the way AIDS and HIV were discussed in the early 80’s… as in, they weren’t!!
This leads to people feeling even more isolated and alone which only leads to more suicidal thoughts.
What we need is discussion, communication and education.
Time for Change
There is a real “get over it” approach from a lot of people in this country about mental health issues, something I myself have been guilty of in the past. Most of this is driven by a total lack of education and understanding.
People need to learn that this is a problem that’s on the rise, not one that’s going away, and that it should be something that is discussed openly. In schools, in the home, down the pub, everywhere.
It’s not something to be ashamed of, hidden away or ignored.
I would advise you to watch the documentary (link at the top of the post) as it helped me gain a much better understanding of suicide and mental health issues in general. I have touched on some of the subjects it raised in here but it really was a worthwhile use of 45 minutes.
I hope I can do better in the future in terms of my approach to people who are suicidal. I’ve lost an aunt to suicide and I know a number of people show have made attempts on their own lives, but until now I’ve not really understood.
Hopefully now I do, at least a little more (optimistic remember).
I’m going to leave you with some contact details for people / societies that help folks deal with suicide and the effects of suicide and hope that if even one person finds them useful I’m at least doing something to help.
The Samaritans – People talk to us any time they like, in their own way, and off the record – about whatever’s getting to them.
Campaign Against Living Miserably or CALM, – a registered charity, which exists to prevent male suicide in the UK.
Papyris – Prevention of young suicide
Mind – The mental health charity
UK Sobs – Exist to meet the needs and overcome the isolation experienced by people over 18 who have been bereaved by suicide.