It was Men’s Mental Health Month in November, a campaign for anyone who identifies as male or a man and to help promote how men’s mental health may be impacted and the support available. Read Jodie’s story below about her brother and his friends and how they’ve raised awareness of men’s mental health in 2020, in memory of a very good friend who they lost to suicide earlier this year:
Suicide is the biggest killer of men under 45 in the UK. Hard as it is to believe, this is a fact and the sad reality. So many of us know this too well as either we have lost a male loved one to suicide or we know someone who has. For my older brother and his closest friends, this became all too real and close to home this summer as one of their best friends who they’d known for over 20 years took the decision to end his life.
Al was kind, gentle and extremely funny who was loved by so many people. Although on the outside, he seemed to have a lot to be happy about it, sadly his mental health led him to become a part of this awful, harrowing statistic. Al had been successful in hiding the extent of his mental health problems from most people in his life apart from a few, as is so often the case. Men grow up in a society that tells them they need to be tough and strong, not showing their emotions. Although, attitudes are gradually changing, this is such an entrenched part of our society, men who are struggling with their mental health often find it even harder to open up and seek help. Talking to someone about your deepest, darkest thoughts, feelings and mental distress, whatever your gender, can feel like a very scary, daunting thing to do. So many of us feel like we have to put on a brave face and just ‘get on with things.’ This shouldn’t be the case.
We ALL have mental health, just like we all have physical health, and just like good diet and regular exercise are important for maintaining good physical health, talking is one of the most important things for our mental health.
Not long after we lost Al, one of his closest friends Dan decided to act and turn something that had devastated him and Al’s other best friends and turn it into something positive. That’s where the cold shower challenge came in. From here on, I’ll refer to Dan, my brother and the rest of their friendship group as ‘the boys’ as that’s how I’ve always known them. Dan and the boys wanted to do something to raise awareness of male suicide and men’s mental health by getting people talking and helping other men to realise that they are not alone. 5 days of 1 minute freezing cold showers (fully clothed), filming yourself talking about male suicide and mental health before taking the plunge, and nominating one more person each day to take on the challenge.
Dan chose the cold shower challenge as a symbol of the intense pain, discomfort and struggle that someone experiencing depression goes through. He had no idea where it would go, and half suspected that it would probably just be him and the boys, and maybe a small handful of others that wanted to show their support. How wrong was he. Over 1000 cold showers later, an uncountable number of social media posts, over £3000 raised for Mind and CALM (Campaign Against Living Miserably) and an interview on BBC Sussex radio, Dan’s aim of raising awareness and getting men talking has well and truly been met. Even Gilberto Silva ex pro-footballer got involved with the challenge promoting amongst his 412.9K twitter followers.
Shocked with the level of interest and support, Dan didn’t want it to end there. He decided to set up a group on Facebook called ‘Al’s Place’ where men could join to feel part of a community, talk to other men who might also be struggling with their mental health, or other related issues such as loneliness and isolation. So far, there are currently 16 members of this group, walks in the countryside and kick-about’s in the park have been organised, and men have opened up and talked, some for the very first time and for some this has been the first step for getting the help and support they need to start living again.
Dan and the boys are keen to keep up the momentum going, and so this December, to end what’s been a difficult year in more ways than one, they are walking from the Amex in Falmer to Craven Cottage in Fulham (Al’s beloved team’s football ground) to raise money for CALM (Campaign Against Living Miserably). What started as a small group of Al’s closest friends (the boys), is now a group of nearly 20 men, friends and family of Al’s. Having raised over £8k already so far exceeding their £5k target, it goes to show how many people out there recognise the importance of raising awareness of this killer of men under 45. Every week, 125 people in the UK take their own lives. 75% of these people are men. If you’re a man reading this, struggling with your mental health or just finding life difficult, focus on just one thing today – talk to someone. Talk to a friend, a family member or a professional. Tell them that you’re struggling and all you need right now is for someone to listen. You’re not alone. Support is out there.
If you’d like to find out more about how to support the Falmer to Fulham walk, go to www.justgiving.com/fundraising/faimer2fulham
For help and support with your mental health please contact us on 01273 66 69 50 or e-mail us at firstname.lastname@example.org