Last year, with the help of some wonderful folk we set up an online and offline mental health safe space called The Respite Room. Due to personal mental health issues and becoming aware of a staggering amount of people that were also experiencing things like anxiety, PTSD, depression and more, it got to the point that we just had to play a small part.
It’s been several months now and the number of people that contact us is mainly women. This may come as no surprise, there seems to be a way that women can express themselves more easily, build a greater support network and bond with one another. Over the last 2 months, I have had a few more men come forward. Some that have had suicidal thoughts, some that have felt so embarrassed about feeling the way they do and some that have just given up. It seems to have taken them more time to come forward and build a trust.
There’s this idea that the archetypal male should be strong, brave and set some kind of example. There’s a sense of pride and belief that emotions shouldn’t be shown. The term, ‘man up’ has become something of a common phrase and one that is just poisonous.
I remember speaking to one anonymous male, he worked in the entertainment industry and had been with the same company for 18 years. One day he realised that he just couldn’t go to work anymore, he felt undervalued, he was worked too hard and had little to show for it. He phoned in sick for work one day and then as the week went on he got a sick line. This then turned into being off work with full-time pay. Meanwhile, his anxiety and depression were reaching worrying levels as he was wondering how he could pay his bills, support himself and his family once his income reduced or stopped. I remember him expressing that he felt so worthless as he was expected to guard his family, make sure they were safe and had everything they needed. He said that he was walking over a motorway bridge one day and paused for 10 minutes, he explained that the urge to jump was nothing he could put into words. He just wanted relief from the pressure in his head and life. He said that he felt he just wasn’t good enough for his family and “a poor excuse for a man”.
Thankfully, he was referred to a professional and having broken things down, spoken to people and worked through things bit by bit he is still here and coping. It just took one or two conversations and an assurance that he was worth everything. This is one of the many stories I have been told first hand and through others.
I have known MILK for a number of years now. Run by Hannah Currie and Aileen Lynn, the duo have a social conscience that goes beyond what is displayed on the surface of their fun, vibrant platform. They have recently announced a film fundraiser called We Are All Here.
For the past three months, Currie has been making a short documentary about Scotland’s young male mental health crisis, based around the lyrics and loss of the rap artist Lumo (Calum/Mohsen Barnes) who lost his life to suicide last year, aged only 21. In 2016, Scotland’s suicide rate rose for the first time in six years (728 people – more than two a day – the majority of them young men); 2017 figures are yet to be released but the suggestion is that they have risen again.
Currie is making this film with Lumo’s best friends, fellow artists from the Glasgow hip hop scene, and his older sister Jen in a bid to try and use hip hop to speak to young people and end the stigma.
We Are All Here is inspired by a poem Lumo wrote about mental health for See Me Scotland before he died. With Loki coming out of battle rap retirement, he will face Edinburgh’s Oddacity! The bill also includes, Scotlands #1 beatboxer Bigg Taj performing with Spee Six Nine and winner of Scotland’s best hip hop act 2017 Kid Robotik. All of the artists are investing in making a change.
If you are experiencing anything discussed above:
- speak to a friend, family member or someone you trust as they may be able to help you calm down and find some breathing space
- call the Samaritans 24-hour support service on 116 123
- go to your nearest accident and emergency (A&E) department and tell the staff how you are feeling
- contact NHS 111
- make an urgent appointment to see your GP
There is ALWAYS someone here to listen to you.