It’s the biggest killer of men under 45.
On average 84 men lose their life to it every single week in the UK.
It’s not car accidents and it’s not cancer – it’s suicide.
And regular viewers of Coronation Street will have been faced with its stark reality as it aired the death and aftermath of Shayne Ward’s character Aiden Conor this week.
The issue has been brought into sharp focus in peoples living rooms – but it needs to be the beginning conversations that continue long after the story line has run its course.
Men in our culture often feel they have very prescriptive roles; and are reluctant to admit to mental and emotional problems in case they are told to “man up” or that “big boys don’t cry”. This is a fallacy; humans both male and female have emotions that need to be tended to. As Robert Webb writes in his book “How Not To Be A Boy”;
“The patriarchy was created for the convenience of men, but it comes at a heavy cost to ourselves and to everyone else.”
A quick look back at the men of the Old Testament and New show us that the patriarchs most often remembered for their strength learned that struggling with emotions isn’t a marker of that strength.
From the extremes of mood and eventual suicide of King Saul, to the spectrum of emotions seen in David’s psalms to the vibrant emotional life of Jesus on earth; the joy of a wedding to the desperation of Gethsemane and the exhortations of Paul that we can rejoice in our weaknesses so that we may rely on God’s strength.
Allowing and encouraging men and boys to talk openly about their emotions in the first step in suicide prevention – and I hope that Aidan Conor’s story on the Street does just that in our families, among our friends and in our churches.
If you or someone you know is struggling with thoughts of suicide; here are a few places that offer support and advice.
CALM (Campaign Against Living Miserably) offers web chat and a helpline for men which runs between 5pm-12am, 365 days a year.
Samaritans, helpline available 27/4, 365 days a year with options to visit a local samaritans branch, email or write a letter.