On March 4th 2009 my Dad left the house, walked 15 minutes to a busy road and stepped in front of a lorry.
He died on impact.
I was 18 (a month off 19) at the time and that was the day that changed my life.
Shortly after losing my Dad to suicide I too battled with depression, anxiety and even thought about taking my own life.
Why did he do it?
My Dad’s suicide shocked us as a family, shocked his friends and co workers and most importantly caused grief to a lot of people close to him.
But to you reading this, my Dad’s suicide was just a digit.
An extra number added to the statistic that 4,624 men took their own lives in the UK alone last year.
With suicide now being the biggest killer of all men under the age of 50, isn’t it time we did something about it?
Is it time to truly ‘Man Up’ and get a grip, or should we ‘Man Down’ and change the way deal with our emotions?
Either way, I’m hoping this article will help.
* My Dad, Grandad and Nan (all referenced in this article)
Did you know a man takes his own life every 2 hours in the UK alone, and out of all of the suicides recorded last year 76% were men?
Still those shocking statistics don’t include the unrecorded suicides, it doesn’t include the high percentage of men dying from alcoholism and drug abuse and it doesn’t include the many men currently struggling right now with deep depression and contemplating their own lives.
As you read this, you can probably think of a man close to you affected by depression, or a man who has taken their own life.
If that person is you, I hope this article will resonate with you.
My Grandad is tough as nails.
He’s 92, he’s been through war, a childhood surrounded by poverty and he was allowed to be disciplined hard by his parents and teachers.
More notably he lost his only Son (my Dad) to suicide and his wife of 50 years to cancer just a month later.
He didn’t cry at either funeral, and in fact I’ve never seen him show any real emotion over the 26 years I’ve know him.
To him showing emotion would be a sign of weakness, throughout his life he’s been conditioned to deal with tough situations and manage emotions through ‘getting on with it’.
Is my Grandad the definition of a true man? Someone who battles through any adversity without showing emotion?
I truly believe the suicide rate is shockingly high due to this misinterpreted picture of what it takes to be a man today.
We’re not built like the older generation were, we’re not conditioned in the same way.
The ‘typical’ modern day man has had to deal with less adversity, stronger and more independent women and in most cases a strong influence from being sheltered by their Mum.
The rate of single Mums bringing up their children is at an all time high and this has a huge impact on how we’re conditioned to behave.
If your Mum had more of an influence on your upbringing, rather than your Dad or finding your own independence early on you’re going to be conditioned differently than the ‘old school man’.
You’re going to feel more emotion and feel a need to express it.
The issue comes when we define a true man as something different to how we’re conditioned, holding back any emotion and ignoring it rather than dealing with it.
Is simply getting over anything thrown our way the best way of dealing with negativity?
Showing emotion isn’t a weakness, it’s a strength.
My Dad buried his negative emotions, he didn’t want to deal with them and he distracted himself from dealing with them working day and night, focusing on money and keeping himself busy at all times.
Short term fulfilment doesn’t solve years of negative conditioning.
One of the biggest reasons behind the suicide rate is a lack of self awareness, not being able to handle emotions and more importantly not feeling like we can show them as men.
Talking is one of the most powerful things you can do. The issue is it’s also one of the hardest.
You don’t have to open up about your feelings to your seven mates at the Pub watching the game but a close friend, family member, counsellor, teacher or colleague at work are options.
You can even write down how you feel and give it to someone close to you if you find expressing it vocally to be hard.
The healing process starts from becoming aware of negativity and why you feel the way you do alongside expressing it.
Just doing this alone will create release and it will start to make you feel better.
Remember everyone around you has their own insecurities, fears and negativity to deal with.
They’re going to be more open to you talking about yours than you think they will be.
Talking and showing any form of emotion doesn’t make you a weak man, it makes you a strong one.
To Man Up or Man Down?
There is no right or wrong answer, we’re all built differently.
I believe a lot of people who look to push the ‘Man Down’ side of the argument on to men emphasise too much on the process of crying.
Some men cry, some men don’t. In fact this isn’t just a man thing, it’s a woman thing too. We’re all different.
We all cry at different things.
Heck I cried like a baby when my Son Teddie was born but my partner Amy didn’t blink a tear. On the other hand I’ll see her shedding a tear at a TV program or advert sometimes and I’m puzzled why she’s crying.
The argument isn’t about crying or not crying. The argument is understanding who you are, how you feel and being able to deal with it.
Self awareness is important and knowing how you’re conditioned will help you understand your way of dealing with emotion.
There isn’t a one size fits all.
The key thing is understanding and dealing with it, rather than burying it and letting it resurface at a later date.
If this article helped let me know in the comments below.
My book ‘Man Up or Man Down’ releases early next year and you can join the early bird list (just click here).
You can also read more on my blog here.
HuffPost UK is running a month-long focus around men to highlight the pressures they face around identity and to raise awareness of the epidemic of suicide. To address some of the issues at hand, Building Modern Men presents a snapshot of life for men, the difficulty in expressing emotion, the challenges of speaking out, as well as kick starting conversations around male body image, LGBT identity, male friendship and mental health.
To blog for Building Modern Men, email firstname.lastname@example.org. If you would like to read our features focused around men, click here