It's been a tough 18 months, hasn't it? There's no question that the devastation wreaked by the COVID-19 storm – millions of deaths, wide-spread financial turmoil and severe restrictions on social interaction – has taken a huge toll on our collective mental health.
Last year, as the pandemic tightened its grip on the world, 3,925 men died by suicide, according to the latest Office for National Statistics figures. That meant three in four registered suicide deaths in 2020 were men – a ratio that has, sadly, has remained consistent since the mid-1990s.
Today, World Suicide Prevention Day, serves as a timely reminder to reach out to our mates, colleagues, brothers, partners, fathers, nephews who may be buckling under the intense strain of these extraordinary times. It's often said, but sparking that conversation may just save a life.
Admittedly, figuring how to broach the topic is something many of us struggle with. More than half of Brits – 53% – lack the confidence to speak to a male work colleague, friend, or family member they're worried about, research commissioned by men's mental health charity Movember found.
The results of the survey, which spanned 2,000 people, found that one third feared causing offence (34%) or feared saying the wrong thing (31%). Just over one in four worry about intruding (29%) or causing embarrassment (28%) to their friend. (continued below)
"We know that strong social connections are an important protective factor against suicide," says Brendan Maher, Global Director of Mental Health and Suicide Prevention at Movember. "People know it's important to have meaningful conversations to support others; however, confidence and knowledge around how to do this with men are low.
"These conversations can often feel uncomfortable or awkward but checking in on your mates, and loved ones can make a world of difference," he continued. "Don't assume they don't want to be bothered or don't want to talk. Just making the call can go a long way."
Want to check in on someone you care about – or reach out to someone about your own mental health – but not sure where to begin? Below, you'll find four resources that'll equip you with the support, advice, and first-hand accounts you need to start the conversation:
Still can't quite find the words? Movember has created a free, interactive digital tool called Movember Conversations. It presents a number of real-world scenarios – job loss, social isolation, family pressures – and offers simulated conversations that navigate each topic.
If you or someone you know would benefit from outside advice on dealing with a mental health issue, Samaritans' free helpline (116 123) is open 24 hours a day, and – crucially – you don't need to be at crisis point to use it.
The CALM helpline (0800 58 58 58), aimed specifically at men, is open from 5pm to midnight and is free, anonymous and confidential. They have a web chat service, for those who are more comfortable typing than talking.
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