There’s a lot of talk in the media about mental health issues these days, but, sadly, the number of suicides remains high, especially amongst young men. Roman Kemp (and the fact that Martin Kemp and Shirlie Holliman’s son is 28 makes me feel extremely old) made this programme about mental health and suicide after his close friend, Capital Radio producer Joe Lyons, took his own life. Roman said he lives only three minutes from Joe, and would have rushed straight round if Joe had felt able to ask him for help. Tragically, he didn’t: neither Roman, nor anyone else in their friendship group, nor Joe’s loving family, were aware of how badly Joe was struggling.
People here in Greater Manchester may be aware of the Shining a Light on Suicide project being championed by Sir Alex Ferguson, Mark Hughes and Andy Burnham. One of the things it suggests is making a safety plan of what to do and whom to contact if you feel that you’re at risk of harming yourself, and this was also something that was mentioned in Roman’s programme.
No-one really feels very comfortable talking about this sort of thing, but we need to be. Roman also talked about his own struggles with depression, and the fact that he’s been on medication for it for many years – and the fact that some people, especially young males, don’t feel able to talk about it. I think women and girls do talk about it more, but it’s still not spoken about openly in the way that physical illnesses now are. Roman said that more than three quarters of young men feel unable to confide in their friends and relatives about their issues, and that was borne out by the discussions he had with people who’d lost a friend or relative to suicide.
One of the lads he spoke to, who’d attempted suicide himself, said that he wasn’t even sure that he wanted to end his life – he just wanted to get away from everything in his head. He just wanted it to stop, and it wouldn’t. A lot of people will have been there. Everything going round and round in your head. Maybe other people driving you mad. Maybe feeling trapped in an uncaring workplace, or a difficult domestic situation. But, if those safety plans are in place, maybe people’ll be able to see another way out.
It’s been said over and over again that mental health problems need to be destigmatised, but it still seems to be something that many people feel unable to talk about, and it continues to be a particular problem amongst young men. Please, please, if you’re struggling, ask for help.