Depression and Suicide
I’m compelled to write about this difficult and hard to confront topic, especially having had some news recently about a friend who lost his battle with depression and died of suicide. The stigma surrounding the word is palpable, and I wanted to exercise a sense of responsibility to confront the awkwardness we each have discussing our experiences of mental health. It’s important I share my views with others and encourage us all to help each other talk about our problems so that we can make a seemingly small, but progressive improvement for our generation and that of our children and our children’s children.
During my earlier years, I was an applied researcher for the NHS Executive and worked on numerous strategic projects for the Department of Health. I was fortunate to work on some fascinating and challenging projects within the Nursing directorate which took the course of extensive research, consultation with large national cohorts (nurses, doctors, patients) and typically culminated in a thesis and transformational legislation passed through government – it was wholesome, impactful work which was making a difference to our society through the largest employer in Europe – our trusted NHS. Although it was a brief period of my career, I have only recently appreciated the specialness of this national treasure and share deep gratitude for the amazing work our NHS superheroes do for each of us, especially in our time of need.
I was also tasked with a few projects within the mental health directorate – and in addition to working on the Ashworth Hospital scandal, I was also researching a project on suicide; whereby a worrying spike in male suicide for 25-40yr olds had instigated an NHS inquiry to understand the data more, with a view that something significant was occurring which needed urgent focus and attention. Despite the morbid nature of the subject, the work has stayed with me ever since and even as I entered the elite sports industry 20 years ago, I found myself compelled by Marcus Trescothick’s autobiography and the biography of the German goalkeeper Robert Enke – both harrowing accounts of depression and despair. More recently, we’ve thankfully witnessed the topic in mainstream media with ITV’s ‘Get Britain Talking’ and an increased number of high profile celebrities and elite sportspeople sharing personal memoirs and reducing the hurtful shaming around the topic. Having heard that one of my university flatmates had fallen victim to such a vicious disease in recent months, it brought the topic into sharper focus and forced a deeper personal perspective. On looking at the latest ONS data, I realised the present day picture was still bleak:
In 2018 there were 6,507 Suicides registered
75% of these (4,903) of these were male (consistent theme for the last 30 years)
Suicide is the biggest killer of men under 50.
In 2018 a worrying trend is developing amongst 10-24yr olds – with 542 male deaths reported.
Latest research shows a 200% increase in suicide deaths since Covid (compared to the same period in previous years).
We have a responsibility to confront depression and I’m so grateful to those people brave enough to talk of their suffering, and to those who aren’t yet ready, we understand. We must re-connect and be there for those around us and we must start treating depression in the same manner we talk about cancer, heart disease and other critical illnesses. This includes the workplace, our family and friends and the community we live in. As a father of two young children, I’m consciously thinking about their mental wellbeing and with a new world shaping in-front of our eyes, as we deal with the unfolding traumas of Covid, I genuinely think this could be a seminal period for us to speak out, share our problems and be there for each other. Here’s a couple of practical things I find useful to do as often as possible – do your best to find what works for you:
Whatever you’re going through, you can call the Samaritans in the UK free any time, from any phone, on 116 123