Today I went to the third funeral of a male member of our community that had taken his own life. It was unbelievably sad. 19 years old. Although I hadn’t seen him since he left school three years ago I know he was a lively, funny and well loved young man.
Like all people of a certain age I have been to an increasing number of funerals when compared to weddings and christenings recently. November and December are tough months for the anniversary’s of losing my dad and my brother and, like many of you, I have lost dear friends to a variety of different causes but the funerals of men that have taken their own lives have been far, far too common.
I know we have had campaigns from numerous people and organisations; notably the ‘find time to talk’ ones on TV recently which have been good to see. However, it is obvious, we need to do even more.
What is it about our culture and society that has made this such an acute and growing issue? I found these statistics on the Samaritans website:
The increase in young men killing themselves is frightening and it makes me reflect on the responsibility I have as a teacher and community leader to do something about it.
I used to think I was a good role model emotionally as I am not one that hides my feelings well. I cry when I’m happy. I cry when I’m proud of someone. I cry when I’m sad. I cried at the two minutes silence that was impeccably observed by all our young people this week. However, I have come to realise that it tends to never be about how I feel or what I’m doing. In reality I’m a pretty closed shop on that front. I don’t talk about things worrying me, I talk about things that I see are worrying other people. I don’t do it because I am being a nice bloke. I do it because I feel comfortable talking about other people and very uncomfortable talking about what is worrying me.
I have tried to work out why. I have decided it’s because I am as arrogant and deluded as any man on the planet at thinking I should be able to solve everyone’s problems and I shouldn’t burden anyone else with mine.
I think this is at the root of many of the tragic events we hear about and it is utter nonsense.
I know how genuinely angry I get when I hear of a family member, friend or colleague that is having a tough time and they haven’t spoken about it. I must stress that it REALLY upsets me that they’ve not come to me; like I am some sort of wizard that can fix anything! The reason I get upset is I know how much it helps to talk – to unburden yourself – but when it comes to talking about what is worrying me I then struggle to accept that I need to have the same outlet.
So, whether it’s because of arrogance, some sort of ingrained feeling about ‘being a man’ or something else, we men must get better at talking about our own anxieties. We are not superhuman or even the stronger sex! So after a long and really sad day I promise on the memories of the men we’ve lost recently – Marcel, Paul and Tyler – to be better in this regard. I hope all the other men that read this make the same promise as your family, friends and colleagues do not want to go to your funeral.