Suicide & Toxic Masculinity
In recent weeks, months and years, we as a society have witnessed the emergence of a devastating epidemic amongst men. An epidemic widely known of and yet woefully under-discussed. An epidemic that is claiming life after life, day after day.
Kurt Cobain. Robin Williams. Chris Cornell. Chester Bennington. Verne Troyer. Kim Jong-Hyun. Tim "Avicii" Bergling.
These are but a few names that belong to a group of men who collectively appeared to have a great deal in common. They were each wealthy and successful. They were each entertaining and well-loved. They were each iconic in their own unique and wonderful way.
They each suffered from something unbearable, and they each succumbed to it.
What perhaps now unites these men more than anything is the last, heartbreaking decision each of them ever made. Despite the so-called "fame and fortune", and despite the love of countless humans around the world, these men reached a point in their respective lives that resulted in each of them choosing to end it.
As I write, I'm all too aware that I myself have come extremely close to joining this growing list of names on a number of occasions over the past 18 months. I'm grateful to be able to say that there is still something within me that feels that living is the best way to solve my problems, but there are so many men out there that sadly don't.
Statistics show that males aged between 15 to 75+ years old are on average three times more likely to take their own lives than women. Suicide among men is one of the leading causes of death in this country, and the numbers continue to rise.
Why is this? Why are men seemingly so much more susceptible to the spectre of self-destruction?
One of the more recent schools of thought blames "toxic masculinity", and I believe there is a lot to this argument. "Toxic masculinity" refers to the societal pressures and expectations placed on men to be strong, tough, and unbroken. It's the idea that suggests that males should be unflinching and unfeeling in the face of hardship and adversity; that they should hide their feelings for fear of being seen as "weak" or less of a man.
I've seen this toxicity affect people I care about. I've seen it affect me. I've seen it affecting countless others around the world.
I believe it's time we tackled this problem together. It's time to talk. It's time to listen. It's time that we accepted that we are not as alone as we feel.
It takes untold strength to open yourself up to judgement, of any kind.
A friend of mine recently confided in me; telling me how much he was struggling and what he was going to do to begin his recovery. The moment I got that message I felt a huge swell of pride for him. His confession took courage. An admission of "weakness" is one of the biggest demonstrations of strength a person can display.
There is nothing wrong, weak, "unmanly" or shameful in seeking help.
Depression is an illness like any other. When your brain is telling you that it no longer wants to exist, how can you expect to tackle that alone? Broken bones require casts. Cancers require treatment. This is no different. You need support.
When I was 21 years old I swore that I would kill myself at 30 if I hadn't found a way to be happy by then. It's a deadline I've thought about time and again over the years.
I'm currently working towards a different vow. When I reach 30 years of age, I'll celebrate my survival. I'll celebrate every hardship I ever overcame and I'll celebrate every person that had the strength to stand up and say "Help me."
To anybody reading this that is suffering, I beg you: talk about it. Ask for help. Be honest, and be strong. I'm leaving some phone numbers below; some of these are numbers that I have called in times of desperation, and the people there are trained to listen and help.
You are not alone. You are not weak. You are not finished.
To everybody else, I urge you to look for the signs. Being there for someone who needs a hand is one of the most noble and important things you will ever do.
Mental Health Advice/Listening Helpine - 0800 132 737
Samaritans (24-hours, free to call) - 116 123 - www.samaritans.org/how-we-can-help-you/contact-us
Wales Helpline (Domestic Abuse) - 0808 801 0800
Bereavement Counselling (CRUSE) - 0844 561 7856
Papyrus Hopeline UK Freephone - 08000 684 141 - papyrus-uk.org/help-advice/resources/spot-the-signs