In the summer of 2009, I walked to the foot of Preston’s bus station, stared up at the edge high above me and considered stepping off that edge. I needed to escape my prison of life, trapped inside a tyrannical closet of my creation and shackled to a religion that was slowly killing me.
Three years earlier in 2006, I closed my bedroom door and contemplated the best way I could tie my school tie around my neck and hang myself from the ceiling. I was done and struggling with being in love with my best friends as many young gay kids are.
The closet has both times tried to kill me with suicide and resulted in my suffering from anxiety. As you can tell, I survived the closet, anxiety and the considerations of death at both ages of fourteen and seventeen.
Now I have passive suicide thoughts. A casual whisper that is barely audible, but I know it is there and easy to ignore.
World Mental Health Day
I’ve told you this because today is World Mental Health Day and the biggest killer of men under 45 and my old nemesis: Suicide.
At work, we are having a day of challenges to support and raise awareness for the charity, Campaign against Living Miserably known as CALM. They aim to prevent male suicide because it is a gender issue with men being the primary victim of suicide.
Last year, 75%of all suicides were male.
That is why I will be swallowing a teaspoon of cinnamon at work today. I’ll also have a personal swear jar because I fucking swear all the shitting time. It is why I write about my struggles with anxiety and depression and have been on this blog for the past year.
I aim to do more.
Change the role of men
Recently I purchased a Mindjournal. Its tagline on the cover is “This book will make you stronger”, and on the back, it states it is “The ground-breaking guide to journaling for men”. You get the idea, right?
The timing of the journal and these challenges at work is perfect.
On page 49, there is a task that asks us to consider what the role of men should be in our ever-changing world?
The Man Box kills
The journal mentions a specific Ted Talk by Tony Porter, where he discusses the concept of the Man Box. The Man Box is a concept of collecting attributes of what men should be and behave like. Inside the box is included the likes of not talking about we feel, not doing anything that gives an appearance of “weakness”, taking what you like through aggression and violence and much more.
The man box is one of the crucial problems that causes many men reaching the moment where they want to end it all.
One of the most encouraged ways of preventing male suicide is removing the social stigma surrounding suicide, mental health and how men are expected to behave.
Transforming the role of men in society and the idea of what a man can be is the first step in the battle against suicide and mental health. I have a vision of how men should be able to behave, and it is very different to the one I was raised to admire by society.
This fight matters to me on a personal level. The vision society has for men that are laid out in the man box led to one of my friends placing a steel blade against his wrist and considered slicing it open with the aim of dying. The only thing that stopped it at the time was the effect it would have one his parents, his sister and on me who would have significantly struggled without him.
My vision for the role of men in our society is as follows:
- Aggression and violence for the sake of it are seen as weakness rather than a strength – we do not idolise those who fight to cause harm or showing who is “toughest”.
- Brains over physical and appearance will bring more significant success than sports.
- Respect all. Believe you are better than no one, especially women and LGBT folk.
- Be open to all emotions, but controlled by none, especially anger.
- Be open to sharing how you feel and not believing that it is weak or that you need to hide what you feel – Sharing is a strength.
- Support one another rather than putting each other down.
Stoicism saved me
The stoic philosopher and playwright, Seneca wrote, “Sometimes, even to live is an act of courage.” We all know life is a bitch to all of us, but by imprisoning men with the social stigma of how and how not to behave, we make it harder for them to fight for their lives.
Another stoic writer and former slave said, “Man is troubled, not by events, but by the meaning he gives them.” Until we, as a society, change how men should be seen and should themselves envision the world around them, we will struggle to prevent more young men walking into the reaper’s arms.
Currently, the number of suicides committed a year, means on average someone kills themselves every two hours.
How I aim to fundraise…
Due to my own experiences and some of those around me, I choose to take this issue to my core. Continuing the speak about my personal experiences and the methods I use to counter the lies spread by my mental illness is a priority for me, but I will also fundraise for CALM in my way to help them raise money to support others.
In the coming months, I’m taking part in three separate events to raise money for CALM.
- The first will be shaving my head down to a grade two. The aim is to bring attention to the place where the battle against suicide takes place for most men: Inside our heads.
- The second will be a day of silence to represent the needless silence men suffer in day in and day out. I will struggle with this day as anyone who knows me can attest to.
- Finally, I will hold a two-hour fencing session where I will fight almost consistently to represent the constant battle men go through against mental health, anxiety, depression and the temptation of suicide.
I hope you and those around me will support me in raising money for CALM. We need to save more young men’s lives from the spectre of suicide.