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Lessons on Suicide: Silence is not golden

Two days ago on Monday evening I felt suicidal. I had just driven with my friend to visit my parents for a couple of days. When I arrived at my parents I sat in a chair. I planned to go for a walk maybe into some woods and kill myself.

What surprises me now is this:

How can someone with all my experience in counselling, psychology, mindfulness (and so many other coping strategies) and someone who’s set up a mental health organisation in order to reduce the male suicide rate not want to seek help in that moment?

I realised today that we need to unlock the reasons why people who are feeling suicidal don’t seek help when they are in crisis.

In that moment I wasn’t thinking straight. I didn’t think to call a friend at first. I irrationally felt unloved and yet there are lots of people who love and value me. This is the problem, in that moment logic and common sense have gone.

The solution then is to work out what we need to say to people who are in this suicidal state. A few weeks ago I spoke to someone I know who had attempted suicide. I told them to call me if they ever felt that way again. I told them that in that moment their mind might trick them into not calling me but please do it anyway. Your mind might try and rationalise why not to call me saying ‘Mike said to call him, however he doesn’t really care. He just said it because he runs a mental health organisation but really he doesn’t care about me’. But call anyway.

Oddly I didn’t call the Samaritans like I have before. I didn’t reach out to my kind followers on Twitter at first either.

I need everyone who’s had this experience to help me unlock the reasons for the blockages at that moment.

We need to ask the question:

Why don’t people seek help when planning their suicide?

Copyright MEN HEAL 2015.

NEW! Men’s Online Support Group (27th July 2015)

Hi everyone

Some of us men still find it difficult to seek help. This can be due to stigma, or it can be the fear of being seen as weak. I was reading recently that some men therefore prefer a completely confidential form of support. The most confidential form of support can be a private online support group.

Facebook Online Support Group for Men

I created the group on Facebook. No-one can see who is a member of the group (unless they join) even your friends. It is supposed to be a safe, confidential space for men to support each other.

The conversation doesn’t have to be about your suffering, it can be a place just for chatting about anything. That’s the beauty of it… it’s whatever you want it to be. The only rule is to be courteous to each other wherever possible, especially when people are struggling.

Look forward to seeing you in the group soon. Here’s the link:

https://www.facebook.com/groups/menhealuk.supportgroup.worldwide/

Best wishes

Mike

Mental Health in Accident & Emergency (Well done NHS)

I’ve just got back from the local hospital (Nevill Hall in Abergavenny). Due to increased security the only entrance open in the late evening is Accident & Emergency. We had to go through the A&E entrance in order to replace the old posters.

Reception let us through no problem, and we replaced the posters we had access to. On the way back I remembered that I’d seen a C.A.L.L. Wales poster up in the main A&E waiting room. The other posters were kept up with pins on noticeboards, so we needed to find blue-tac to put up a poster in A&E. We had no blue-tac with us so we had to collect some across the hospital (little bits left on walls here and there… next time we need to remember blue-tac!).

As we collected the last bit of stray blue-tac while walking through the corridor back to A&E, a nurse spotted us and thought we were acting a bit strangely (to be fair it was slightly strange to be collecting blue-tac late in the evening in a hospital!). She politely asked us what we were doing, we explained we were putting up posters for a men’s mental health organisation that we ran. Her response was amazing. She said “What a great idea, you should put one up in the A&E waiting room because a lot of people who come in need support”. I asked her who I needed permission off to put the poster up and she said that she was giving permission (thanks Cathy).

To think that about 12 years ago (2003) A&E in Cambridge fobbed me off (read the story entitled Car Parking Attendant Saves My Life (Psychiatrist Doesn’t). I’m feeling that the attitude of hospital staff has changed for the better, maybe your experiences do or do not reflect that, however my experiences recently make me feel that things have improved. What are your experiences? Please leave your comments below.

Thanks to Cathy for healing part of the emotional wound I experienced when I visited A&E 12 years ago. Her attitude has increased my confidence in NHS staff regarding mental health issues. I feel the world is a slightly better place tonight.

Mike

Copyright MEN HEAL 2015

Proposed Men’s Group in Pontypool (25th May 2015)

One of my Twitter followers, Neil Barry (@mrnebarry), suggested we set up a men’s group in Pontypool. Being pro-active I said yes!

We visited Pontypool last week in order to check out possible venues. Neil had already suggested touching base with Torfaen Voluntary Alliance, so we popped in to see them. We met Kyle who said we could have a room for free.

I have emailed Kyle lots of information about how we run groups and that we are looking for funding, so hoping to hear from him after this bank holiday.

If you are interested in coming to such a group or wish to volunteer then please contact us.

Eventually we are hoping to set up groups around the country. The idea is that we’ll help people to set up their own groups and train them how to do so. We’ll also give them all the marketing material, and advice. Hopefully each group will be self-sustaining, this will enable far more groups to be set up around the UK.

Separate groups will be able to meet up for nearby socials or activities with other groups, for example bowling, archery, walking, darts, pool etc. So we hope to make many friends along the way!

We’re really excited for the future.

Mike

Copyright MEN HEAL 2015

Bowling Evening / Social (15th April 2015)

Thanks to everyone who came to our first official social event, tenpin bowling in Cwmbran. We’ve talked a long time about having a social event, so we’re pleased to finally make this a reality.

Everyone seemed to enjoy it (not a single foot foul). Best feedback of the evening “Mike, get your hands out of your pockets when bowling!”. I must admit that I was much better after listening to this wise advice!

We hope to repeat bowling again soon. We had people from many areas, including Abergavenny, Newport, Pontypridd and Abertillery. We hope to get people from other nearby areas soon, such as Brynmawr, Ebbw Vale, Brecon, Monmouth, Blackwood, Pontypool and Merthry Tydfil. The only rule is that as long as you can get to us then you can come! So people with private jets from the other side of the world welcome! (joking and serious at the same time) 🙂

tenpin bowling

Find out more about our latest social events and men’s mental health and wellbeing groups on our MeetUp.com page.

FInd us on MeetUp

Future Activities

Someone from the group has suggested archery as a possibility which I’m really excited about, The nearest archery group seems to be in a place called Hawk Adventures in Brecon. So we’ll check soon about costs and dates etc. Any activities will always be listed on our MeetUp page remember. Following us on Twitter (@menhealuk)  is also a good way to find out what we’re up to, as well as a good way to get information on mental health and wellbeing.

Look forward to seeing you at a meetup soon.

Copyright MEN HEAL 2015 (@menhealuk)

National Centre of Mental Health Visit

Yesterday, Tuesday 10th February 2015, I visited the National Centre for Mental Health (part of Cardiff University).

I was asked to be a Research Champion which means helping to let people know about getting involved in research. (Note: I have no heavy bias here because it’s an unpaid role). For example, last year I volunteered for a brainscan (fMRI) project where the emotional part of my brain was scanned for happiness. The idea was to see if I could train my brain to be happy just be thinking. At first I had to recall happy times, and then unhappy times. Eventually it was hoped that instead of having to think happy thoughts I could just jump straight to activating happiness instantly. This is obviously a very crude explanation of the actual experiment but hopefully in gives people an idea of the type of projects that run.

Paul and Lee asked if I’d be interested in going to their public men’s mental health conference which I said yes to.

NCMH (http://ncmh.info) do research but always try and make what is learned available to the public so people can benefit.

They are also interested in ending stigma surrounding mental health.

It looks like we’ll be working together for the near future. I’m very excited to be involved.

If you are interested in volunteering for their research (you are paid for your time and get travel expenses) then check out http://ncmh.info. Note that they are based in Cardiff, Wales, United Kingdom, so obviously you need to live within an hour or two of Cardiff.

Copyright MEN HEAL 2015.

Everyone has it together accept me!

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I’ve heard a lot of people, particularly those with depression, say that everyone else has it sorted except them. Of course those with severe mental health issues are truly far worse off than those without such conditions, however comparing oneself in this way is likely to increase feelings of doom or inadequacy.

It’s a classic cognitive error (of the CBT – Cognitive Behavioural Therapy school of thought).

Noone has it totally sorted and we all suffer from the human condition. Indeed I believe that most mental health disorders are magnified versions of parts of the human condition.

Here’s some reasons why this classic thought of everyone else being sorted is false:

• When we go out and about we won’t see those that are too depressed or ill to come out that day, we only see people with severe mental health issues on their better days
• We can’t read the minds of others, we can only make assumptions. We might see someone in a supermarket, who lost their partner last week. They still need to buy food but they’re unlikely to be feeling great, and yet when they go out they might not show their pain in an obvious way
• In Britain, and I’m sure other countries too, we don’t tend to speak about our pain to strangers or often even those we know quite well. This cultural habit will distort our perception about how well everyone else is doing.

I’ve been surprised in the past few years how, once I opened up to others about my struggles, others also would open up. Indeed almost everyone will open up in this way. This honest way of communicating can be very nurturing and healing for everyone, although offloading too much at once might be too much for some.

So next time you think everyone else has it sorted, remember that it’s almost certainly untrue.

Meeting with Assembly Member Sara Jones

Today I met with Welsh Assembly Member, Sara Jones to discuss two main topics:

  • How we can move MEN HEAL forward
  • How we can tackle mental health stigma

Moving MEN HEAL Forward

  • Sara said she’d look in to the possibility of getting a venue from the council for free. This would really help because we currently meet in Caffè Nero, which is a great place, but it’s difficult to get privacy, which is of course essential for a group like this. At least one local member of the group gave feedback that it was difficult to talk in a public place (feedback graciously noted)
  • We talked about how positive sport can be for mental wellbeing, not only because exercise has been shown to be beneficial for mental wellbeing, but also because sports, especially team sports, can give a lot of camaraderie and self-confidence. Sara will look in to a possibility of up to £1500 funding (per year) for sports equipment for the group. Again not expecting anything, but great to investigate
  • Sara asked if she could help with marketing the group. Hopefully we’ll talk about that again soon

Tackling Mental Health Stigma

Thanks to Sara for being so supportive in the area of mental health. She is a mental health champion.

chocolate-medal

We will meet again in 2015 to push things forward further.

Copyright MEN HEAL 2014