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Being silent isn't being strong

Suicide is a predominantly male issue, yet few people realise the extent of the problem in this country. In fact it is the biggest killer of young men in England and Wales. Part of the problem is that young men don’t talk about their problems until it’s too late. Why?

10 men kill themselves in the UK every day 'Greg' I’ve never wanted to be diagnosed with a mental health issue. I’m too proud. If I ask for help it's like I’m admitting that there is a problem, and that’s a sign of weakness. As suicide is the biggest killer of young men in England and Wales, I’m obviously not the only one refusing assistance. I started feeling miserable when I was doing my A-Levels, but the first significant and sustained low spanned the years that followed at university. I was failing a course that I wasn’t particularly interested in. Everything felt a bit hopeless; I lacked direction. I combined this with trying to live up to incredibly high (but imaginary) expectations of my parents. It’s not surprising that I felt the strain. I missed lectures; I didn’t really want to see anyone. When I did see my friends I was happy-go-lucky, always wearing a smile, behind closed doors the wheels were falling off. It wasn’t long before I was searching ‘suicide’. Luckily I was fortunate to have someone to talk to: my girlfriend. Without her support I certainly wouldn’t be where I am today; I may not even be here at all. I came out of the trough, but it didn’t last long.

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I had reached breaking point again but nobody other than myself knew the extent of how I was feeling.

A couple of years later I accepted a good job, but there was a catch. I moved to a nondescript town far away from home. I hated the place. My girlfriend and friends were in London. The office was small and most people lived a fair commute away so there was no social life. Time passed and eventually the girlfriend and I split up, which in itself was fine but did have the effect of making me feel increasingly isolated. I kept in touch with friends via phone, email or text regularly and while they knew I was not content I never went into detail. I guess I didn’t see any point in going on about it, I felt that telling them wouldn’t change anything. I had reached breaking point again but nobody other than myself knew the extent of how I was feeling. I eventually moved back to London. The current low I’m going through is once again characterised by a lack of direction resulting in general feelings of hopelessness and apathy. I have the benefit of my past experience and so have benchmarks to compare to; I feel that I know where I am in relation to my “breaking point”. Throwing myself into the gym has really helped, but it is not quite the answer. I am still dealing with this by myself.

Creation Vs destruction

Men are three times more likely to kill themselves than women 'Daniel' I’m 20, and I have been diagnosed with depression. I’m not writing this for sympathy; I hope someone might read it and feel some hope. You are not alone. I’m not going to patronise you. I’m not going to say "it’s okay"; I know how bad it can be. Before I became depressed I was a normal 19 year old. Second year of uni; great girlfriend; top mates, everything going great; not a care in the world… I don’t want to go into details, but a few things changed at home, and my life was flipped upside down. To be honest I thought I was good at dealing with problems, but suddenly I started to shut down. I stopped hanging out with my mates altogether, I stayed in bed not having the energy to get up and make myself lunch. I started to miss uni lectures, I just felt like even the smallest things were impossible. I didn’t know that these are classic symptoms of depression. Then one day it got too much. I hadn’t left my flat in three days. I didn’t know what was going on. I plucked up the courage to call a charity helpline called 'Breathing Space'. A woman answered and we talked for a while about how I was feeling. She recommended I see the doctor and maybe a university counsellor to talk through my problems. I booked an appointment with my uni GP but chickened out, telling myself I would probably waste their time. Instead I arranged to

I’m not going to say "it’s okay". I know how bad it can be.

go to a counsellor. I explained how I felt and she referred me to the doctor. I went this time and I was prescribed an anti-depressant called fluoxitene. At first I thought this had solved everything. I gained confidence and thought I could go back to being the old me again. I went back to university and quickly started to spiral downwards again, getting into patterns very similar to how I was before. I tried to tell myself everything was ok as long as I got through my course. I muddled through some minor exams, but as my finals approached I lost it. I delved to my darkest place. I was suicidal. Running away felt easier than completing my course. In the end I broke down, told my girlfriend everything and decided to postpone my exams. I headed home not really knowing what to expect or how I would feel when I got there. So that pretty much brings us to now. I’m seeing a new counsellor at home called Bob and feel I’m making great progress with him because I’m communicating. I’ve read dozens of websites and books on how to recover from depression. I can’t say they have helped, but one thing I’m sure of is having a strong support unit around you, whether family, friends or your partner, is a must.

Nine out of Ten people don't know that suicide is the biggest killer of young men 'David' When I was 17 I met a girl and fell in love with her. She was great and we stayed together for many years. Shortly after our first anniversary she had a breakdown – she shut down and couldn’t cope with life. She was ill for a long time. I never told my family because I was scared they would force me to leave her. So I stayed trying to help her in anyway I could. It was an incredibly difficult time, and one that I found almost impossible to cope with. Eventually she began to feel better and piece her life back together. It was amazing to see her happy again after spending so long so low. It must be an incredibly painful thing to go through a breakdown, but there’s a special kind of agony reserved for those that are forced to look on helpless. I was so happy for her, for us, but all the pain and anguish that I’d experienced remained in my head. I thought that her getting better would solve all our problems, but I had bottled up my feelings for so 1ong that I began to suffer pretty badly. When I went out I would have bad panic attacks. My vision would go

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blurry, my hands would sweat, and my heart would be in my mouth. When I would try to sleep it felt like there were a thousand voices in my head, and I would see an old black and white film being rewound really quickly every time I closed my eyes. This went on for months. I remember one time being around my family and they were all laughing and joking and they seemed so happy. But I was holding on, desperately trying to hold myself together while going through yet another panic attack. None of them knew though, because I never told them, I held on. To this day they only have

No one in my family ever felt sad or cried, they just seemed to get on with life. I was so ashamed that I couldn’t.

Deal with it a vague idea of what I went through. I didn’t tell them because I was embarrassed. I felt myself weak and pathetic that I couldn’t cope. I was depressed as well. No one in my family ever felt sad or cried, they just seemed to get on with life. I was so ashamed that I couldn’t. I only started to get a hold of the anxiety and sadness when I started to open up. I went to a counsellor. Just letting it out and realising that

so many other people had experienced the things I had made me feel like less of a failure. There’s always a reason for not talking about the way you’re feeling, but never let embarrassment or a false sense of strength stop you from sharing your problems. There is nothing wrong with talking about your issues, and it could well save you. All artwork created by Luke Pantelidou except 'Manifesto' on page 5 supplied by CALM

CALM say, "Most men who take their own lives aren’t in contact with any other agency, and don’t identify with much out there. When asked, what they indicated they wanted was practical, anonymous, confidential help from professionals."

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0808 802 58 58

This supplement was produced by with help from CALM (Campaign Against Living Miserably)

Being Silent isn't being strong  

Supplement with issue 113 of Exposure magazine, tackling the alarming issue of suicide being the bigest killer of young men.

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