As I stood on that bridge, staring down into the river below, ready to commit suicide, I began to cry. I felt my warm tears roll down my cheek. I couldn’t do it, something inside told me that I needed help.
This was not the first blog I wanted to write since I got back from my trip, but it seems to be the right one. The 10th of September was World Suicide Prevention Day, and today 10th October is World Mental Health Day.
Unfortunately however, the message still doesn’t seem to be getting through.
Once upon a time the kind of events we used to get invited to were all age related milestones: birthdays for the young, weddings and christenings for the middle-aged and funerals for the old. Now as young men, however, we seem to be attending more and more funerals for other young men who have made a choice to end their own lives.
Some of them will have lost a battle with their own mental health, others simply make that decision.
For whatever reason, suicide is the single biggest killer of men under 45 in the UK. More than heart disease, cancer and strokes. But at any age suicide is a overwhelmingly a male problem – over three quarters of all suicides in 2014 in the UK were men of all ages.
In 2014 a staggering 6,122 people in the UK took their own lives, I very nearly made it 6,123.
It was back in January of 2014, when after a long day at work I got home to find a letter which pushed me to a point where I made a decision that, to end my life would be easier than to live with the unbearable pain I was feeling.
I say, ‘after a long day at work’ though, if I am honest with you and myself, the pain had been growing for a long time.
My work situation wasn’t going well, my marriage was ending, my finances were in a black hole that even Stephen Hawking would have struggled to explain, I missed my friends, family and home town and my HIV was weighing heavy on my mind.
Taken individually, none of these problems were insurmountable, but one on top of the other, it became far, far too much. I couldn’t sleep and felt exhausted all the time, I would often go walking at 3am when the city was quiet, walking around the quiet places, the cathedral and the bridges, just to try and tire myself out so I could rest.
I had been taking anti-depressants for a few months, but nothing was taking the edge off and so, when I got in from work and found that letter, my mental health finally did what it had been threatening to do for months, and collapsed.
Suddenly, my head was silent, the screaming that had been reverberating around my skull for months was gone, I felt numb and I knew I’d had enough.
I changed out of my work clothes, and calmly picked up the only three items I needed. My house keys to lock the doors after I left, my iPod so I could listen to some music and my driving licence so that whoever found me would be able to identify my body.
I then walked to a major roundabout where lorries thundered passed and prepared to step out in front of one of them, I pictured my mother, my god-daughter, Sam, and took a deep breath. But I didn’t step forward. The thought of what it would do to the driver had bubbled up in my mind, and I thought of the impact my decision would have on them.
Instead, I stepped back and walked down the road to the bridge over the river. As I prepared to jump, the water level looked high and swirled beneath me, I stepped up onto the low walls and looked down, noticing how the stars above reflected in the water.
I began to cry. I felt my warm tears roll down my cheek. I couldn’t do it, something inside told me that I needed help.
I walked to the Samaritans office and was given a bed in a secure psychiatric unit for the next three weeks.
Over two years on and I am more or less recovered, – I have been off anti-depressants for nearly a year, my life has improved exponentially and I have dealt, one by one, with all of the issues that stormed around me that cold night.
I wonder about the things I would have missed had I stepped forward or jumped that night. My partner TJ, my new job, sorting myself out, moving back to the places I knew and loved, living out my hopes and dreams and finally going to Africa. I also think about the adventures I will have in future.
My Dad, is long a source of inspiration to me. I would never tell him, – he would be unbearable, is 63 and has just taken redundancy from a job he’s been doing for over 8 years.
Rather than taking the opportunity for a break or to slow up, he has applied for over 50 jobs in a week. He is actively pursuing his next opportunity and looking forward to new adventures.
I am 30 and I am knackered just looking at him, but I know that, like him, I have many more adventures to look forward to.
This, I think, is why the deaths of so many young men weigh so heavily on my mind. What adventures might they have had?
It frustrates me that depression and anxiety are still taboo topics. It upsets me that people still feel unable to ask for help. It hurts me that my friends, and friends of my friends are dying and no-one can seem to stop it.
World Suicide Prevention Day and World Mental Health Day are a good start, but it only works if the conversation carries on, if people keep talking outside these designated days. Young men will keep dying unless we find a way to make it ok to talk.
(@SteveoftheMarch on twitter)
If you need to talk to someone about how you feel, or if you’re concerned you may hurt yourself, please reach out now. There are people ready to listen to you 24/7 at The Samaritans. Call FREE on 116 123 anytime day or night.
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