A few weeks ago I wrote a blog called “For the Dads” which touched on men suffering from depression. Inspired by an article in The Times Magazine on Saturday, I want to say a bit more.
Around 12 men take their own lives every day in the UK. This is devastating in itself, but if 12 a day take action imagine, “the number of men who inwardly wrestle with the instinct [which] can only be exponentially greater”.
We have a good friend who 5 years ago, suffered a dark time and pulled through and then 2 years ago, even darker times arrived. This time, he felt like his family would be better off without him.
Thankfully, our friend was eventually able to open up and once his internal wrestlings were known to his family, was able to find help.
However, as was explained by Tim Grayburn interviewed in The Times Magazine on Saturday, once that thought has been had, it is there and cannot be taken back. It remains in all its bleakness, sending silent shockwaves to undermine our foundations of inbuilt certainty, that life goes on.
It is a thought which can never be erased from the memory and heart of our friend’s wife. Her heart races and races if her husband is home later than expected and doesn’t answer his phone and for her, a stressful time at her husband’s business has a secret, additional weight.
But a thought like that, inside a man already struggling, grows ripe and pregnant with misplaced relief.
In Tim Grayburn’s interview he reveals that initially, as a young man, he just did not identify his feelings of despair and helplessness as depression, rather he “just thought [he] wasn’t very good at life”. This is not uncommon.
I wonder if friends and family too, might not as readily name a male friend’s emotional turmoil as depression, as they would a female friend’s. This must perpetuate the issue and in itself is a barrier to assistance.
75% of suicides in the UK are committed by men yet men are no more likely to suffer from depression than women.
The issue is the stigma perceived to be attached to men’s mental health problems and the fact that men are less likely and less able to seek help. Often hiding and masking their troubles either until it is too late or until they are completely disabled by their helplessness such that their silent cries for help are at last heard.
Equally, although much is currently being done to promote these issues, certainly, Dan feels that the health system is skewed heavily in favour of women and so, in circumstances where you might look to a professional and not your family, even booking an appointment is no mean feat (whereas I can get same day appointments, Dan always has weeks to wait; whereas I receive requests for my 40 years health check, Dan receives none). This perhaps does not invite openness nor does it set the right tone for deeply personal and weighty revelations. Tim Grayburn was prescribed medication, “given a leaflet and sent on his way” and found the whole process “impersonal and vague”.
I am no expert and I don’t have the answers, I am writing this because I feel acutely aware of all the wonderful men and husbands I know and all that they give. I know I live a blessed life and that we are privileged, but much of that is down to the amazing men who give us opportunities to spend time at home and grant us many indulgences. I also feel we don’t give them enough credit and perhaps dismiss their own concerns, if we ever give them more attention than a dismissive, “don’t worry”.
So tonight, my goodnight kiss to Dan will be a little bit longer. This week my “how was your day” will be said as I sit down to look at his face and listen, and not whilst I unload the dishwasher. And on the school run this week, when I see the other dads helping, I will look at them and hope they are all ok and if they are not, I hope they can find the courage to stand up and say, I am struggling. Because, that is ok. It’s ok not to be joyful, assured, confident and hopeful all of the time. You are enough and you are loved, more than you can ever know.
Tim Grayburn is author of “Boys Don’t Cry” and was interviewed by Ben Machell for The Times Magazine, published 20 May 2017.
This blog was written in consultation with our friend.
Thank you to Pinterest for the image.