I don’t want to jump conclusions with regards to the recent suicide of Gary Speed, ex-footballer and Wales Manager, but it is a good opportunity to talk about male suicide. During his appearance on Saturday’s Football Focus he certainly didn’t show any sign that he was suffering in any way. No wonder the immense shock of Sunday’s news.
This masking of suffering, putting on a brave face, can be the killer in my opinion. I think men are under a lot more pressure than women to keep their emotions to themselves and to show their “strength”. It is much harder for them to admit a problem and ask for help- imagine how incredibly alone and desperate that must make them feel. In my 9 years with my boyfriend, I’ve only ever known him to go to the doctor’s once, and that was under pressure from me!! Surely it is more a sign of strength to show what is really going on for you and to ask for help. There are always solutions and people to support you. Just look at the sadness throughout the football community over what has happened- they are distraught, any one of them would have jumped at the chance to help Gary, whatever his need. Thank goodness these men are showing their true emotions and openly expressing their despair in tears on the football pitch. This is how it should be and I admire their strength and courage.
I have had, and still do, my own battle with suicidal thoughts and have attempted to end it all myself. I thank God for saving me then. I know how deeply painful and despairing are those thoughts that creep inside your head, how desperate and isolating it feels. My head was and still gets so mucked up, I truly believe I’m going to die anyway any minute, so I might as well do it on my own terms. When embedded in the immense pain of depression, you are unable to think so clearly about the feelings of others and how they would react to your death. You can only think in a delusional way- that absolutely nobody loves and cares for you, that you are completely alone, nobody will miss you, you have contributed nothing to the world, you are the most disgusting and hated creature on the planet. You do not feel human, only like a cloud of crap that mooches it’s way from person to person making them feel as miserable as you. Why would anybody want to feel like that. Better to remove yourself from the picture, yes? Everyone will be so much better off- you are a problem to them, a nuissance. These are the utterings of the depressed mind- to you everything is completely logical and 100% real- you believe everything your mind tells you. It is so so easy to believe it. All you want is for the pain to stop.
Male suicide is a subject close to my heart as my Grandad killed himself when I was only 2. This has greatly affected my parents and Grandma, and robbed me and my sister of a grandfather. A friend of mine also lost her father to suicide.
Suicide is such a taboo subject. We as a society need to face up to the fact that it happens and stop sweeping it under the carpet and hoping the problem will disappear. “If we don’t talk about it it doesn’t exist”, is the message. It does exist, it is more common than we realise, and by not talking about it openly, it only increases the shame both men and women feel about depression and suicide. Shame will increase the severity of the depression and prevent people from asking for help, therefore increasing suicide risk.
Depression is an illness that fosters shame and guilt- I am in that place at the moment and yes I am guilty of putting on a mask too. But maybe I will try to lower my barrier of false cheeriness and allow my true feelings to be seen, I hope others will join me in this, in an attempt to replace ignorance with understanding and acceptance as a society.
Gary Speed’s family and friends will ultimately have an excrutiatingly painful time ahead of them- confusing in it’s mixture of shock, grief, despair and immense anger. To them and any other family suffering in such a way I wish blessings upon, and hope that one day they will find their own peace.