“What on earth?”, “there are no barriers”, “do they not know the risks they are exposing themselves to?”. ‘Why are so many people up there?’. My Safety Bloke brain was going into overdrive as I struggled to take in the image I was transfixed by.
‘I don’t like Mondays’ tailed off on the radio and Jeremy Vine mentioned something about gun law in the US and Bob Geldof. As he started his next item my ears pricked up. He mentioned a public awareness campaign taking place in London which aimed to get men talking about mental health.
It started to dawn on me, this was the picture I was staring at. Gradually, realisation sunk in – ‘every two hours’ – ’84 a week’ – ‘4368 a year’.
These figures are shocking, they refer to the number of men who commit suicide every day, every week, every year in the UK alone. The 84 statues represent those poor souls for whom life has proved too much. Men in their prime who don’t have anywhere left to turn, who think that the only way is down, looking for some way to end their pain, their torment, their anguish.
As I listened and Googled the information, I was haunted by this image and the powerful message that it portrayed. All the statues are clothed, some in casual hoodies and jeans, others wearing suits and ties, some in uniforms, some in work wear, some are black, some are white, some are young, some are older a cross section of men in the UK. The single common denominator that all of them share is the overwhelming, all consuming desire to end their lives.
I remembered my own journey which took me closer to the edge than I dare recall and all the feelings associated with it. At this point I started to weep as I remembered two of my close friends who found themselves in similar positions. Both gave no outward signs that they were suffering. I was reminded of my friend’s son at the graveside, sobbing uncontrollably as his Daddy was lowered. I remember how I felt seeing and hearing that, it is an image that will never, ever leave me.
I remember my daughter hugging me tightly and saying through tears ‘promise me you won’t ever do that’.
I have learned that suicide does not end the pain, it’s simply a transfer of ownership. Those that are left behind don’t get any answers, the whys and wherefores, the reasons.
‘…And I can see no reason, ‘cos there are no reasons, what reason do you need to be sure…’
Talking about emotions and feelings, stresses and poor mental health is not something that comes naturally to men, we tend to see it as weakness until it goes to far. We are geniuses at hiding our emotions from people, putting on a brave face.
But every two hours of every day, somebody’s Partner, Mother, Father, Brother, Sister, Family and Friends take ownership of that brave face and have to wear it for the rest of their lives.
Gents, let’s get together and end the stigma associated with our mental health. It’s definitely not weak to speak.
For more information about Project 84 and CALM (Campaign Against Living Miserably), please see their website https://www.projecteightyfour.com