Suicide. It’s not a nice topic by any means. But, it’s something I’ve been touched by. Twice in twelve months I’m afraid.
I myself have never contemplated suicide, but sadly, two of my friends have and succeeded.
One of them was my first love and long-time friend.
It has been just over 12 months since his death and I still think of him almost every day. Losing him was a shock. It was a shock for everyone, as no-one, as far as I know, was aware of his battle with depression.
I cannot tell you how many times I have pondered; “What was going on in his head?”, “Why did he do it?”, “What was wrong?”, “Did he tell anyone?”, “Would he have told me about his troubles if I had asked?”, “Why didn’t I ask him if he was okay?”, “Should I have known?” and “If I had known could I have helped, and would it have made a difference?” There are so many questions that still haunt me, too many to list. Sadly, my questions will never be answered, and this is something I have to live with.
The scenario was different for my other friend. His battle with depression was apparent to his close friends and family for many years. He was vocal about it, he shared his feelings and thoughts with his loved ones, which is so important. So for that, I am proud – good on him for speaking out when he could! Heartbreakingly though, he lost his battle with depression and made the choice that he obviously felt he had to make. He is finally at peace now.
I wasn’t anywhere near as close to him as my other friend, but he was someone I knew all the same. Someone I spent time with, someone I danced with, laughed with, chilled out with and partied with.
These two friends of mine had one thing in common. They were both male.
Beyond Blue and The Australian Bureau of Statistics state that in Australia, men account for 75 per cent of deaths by suicide. In 2010, the male suicide rate was 16.4 deaths per 100,000 males compared to the female rate of 4.8 deaths per 100,000 females.
Why is the gender gap so large? Obviously every case is different and I’m certainly not going to sit here and tell you that I know exactly why. But what I do know, is that on average, men are much less likely to speak out than women, and men are just not wired the way that we are. This is often the case with going to the Doctor too. Men are far less likely to admit there is something wrong, mentally or physically, and therefore are often reluctant to talk to a Doctor either. Interestingly enough, Income Protection premiums are actually cheaper for men, for this very reason!
Recently, a group of men took to Social Media, with a new awareness campaign marked by the words “It’s okay to talk”. A selfie of men doing the ‘okay’ or ‘perfect’ symbol (as some would describe it), was accompanied with words similar to:
The single biggest killer of men under the age 45 is suicide. In 2014, 4,623 Australian men took their own life. That’s 12 men every day, 1 man every two hours. 41% of men who contemplated suicide felt they could not talk about their feelings. And only 20% of people know that suicide is the most likely cause of death for men under the age of 45 in Australia.
Let’s show men across the world that #IT’SOKAYTOTALK take a selfie tag your friends and let’s get the message out.”
I thought this was such an awesome initiative, and it made me really happy to see so many of my Facebook friends taking part in it. You may be thinking; “What difference does something like this make to the issue?” Simply telling men that it is okay to talk can make a difference! Simply spreading awareness lets people know that this is a serious issue, which needs to be addressed. Any form of awareness campaign is sure to make some difference. Even if it is just a little.
Men need to know that there is absolutely nothing wrong with speaking out. There is absolutely nothing wrong with feeling inadequate, insecure, sad, lonely, depressed, anxious, or whatever else they may be feeling, it’s okay! We all go through negative emotions at some point in our lives that I can promise you. It’s okay to talk!
On top of all this, there is still a stigma surrounding mental health, which is a huge barrier for anybody to seek help. People are scared that they may be judged or ridiculed for this, which is so very sad.
I want to help spread awareness. I want to encourage not just men to speak out, but everyone.
Please, I urge you; do not be afraid to talk. Talk to anyone! Whether it be to your parents, another family member, a friend, a colleague, your boss, a neighbour, a Psychologist or someone on the other end of a help line. It doesn’t really matter who it is, just tell someone. Recognising you’re not okay and voicing that to somebody is the first step, and a very important one at that.
I also want to remind you to be kind!
You don’t know what other people are going through or how they may be feeling about themselves. So think before you say something to someone. Think before you send a nasty text message. Think before you blast a complete stranger on social media as you hide behind your computer. Whether you know that person or not, have a think about it. How is this going to affect them? Could they be going through something that you don’t know about? Treat other people how you would like to be treated, it really isn’t that difficult!
When it comes to my personal experience, the biggest lesson I have learnt in all this is; not being afraid to tell people how you feel about them, no matter how often, and no matter how strong those feelings may be.
You never know when it’s going to be the last time you see someone. So tell them how much you love them, share your thoughts and feelings, be kind, be true, and most of all be you!
If I had known then what I know now, I would have told my first love how much he meant to me. I would have told him how much I valued our friendship, that his smile lit up the world, his laugh made me happy (I can still hear it now), that he was a beautiful person and most of all, an incredible father.
I will now spend the rest of my life, wishing I had.
So, I will close with this final message: Don’t take anyone for granted and love the people close to you like it’s their last day on earth, because you never know when it will be.
If you’re going through a difficult time, are having or have had any suicidal thoughts, or just need to talk. Please find some one to talk to right away, or call Lifeline on 13 11 14.