A new survey commissioned by Samaritans released today (19 March) shows that there is still a stigma around men seeking help when they are struggling to cope.
Two in five (41%) men in England, Scotland and Wales aged 20-59 do not seek support when they need to, because they prefer to solve their own problems. The survey also showed that men often don’t want to feel like a burden and don’t feel their problems will be understood.
Samaritans is launching a campaign, supported by National Rail, called Real People, Real Stories. The campaign sees men who have overcome tough times share their stories to encourage men, who are most at risk of suicide, to seek help by contacting Samaritans 24/7 free on 116 123 or Samaritans.org.
Paul McDonald, Executive Director of External Affairs at Samaritans, said: “We didn’t want to create just another awareness campaign. We wanted something authentic and emotive from men who have been through tough times, sharing their really powerful, positive and hopeful stories to encourage other men to seek help before they reach crisis point.”
“Our survey results found that although 78% of men aged 20-59 say it’s okay to admit you’re not feeling okay, many still avoid speaking out when they’re finding life tough. A quarter (25%) felt their problems weren’t important enough to warrant calling a helpline, which is one of the reasons this awareness campaign is so important.”
Tony Robertson, 38, suffered from undiagnosed depression for most of his life. Tony struggled to cope when he lost his job, his home and partner, and attempted to take his own life. “I was in my hospital bed the morning after and I saw my mum sat there upset, and something clicked. I started talking to my mum about how I was feeling. I think having that human connection really does bring that home. Talking really can save lives.”
The survey found that some of the main reasons why these men find life tough and struggle include debt or financial worries (36%), relationship breakdown or family problems (30%), loneliness or isolation (29%) and job loss or job-related problems (25%).
Ollie Mehra, 23, has suffered from anxiety and depression since he was fifteen. When his relationship ended, he described it as “the straw that broke the camel’s back”. He began to have suicidal thoughts. “When I told my friends how I was feeling, four of them said: ‘Mate, so have I. I know how you feel.’ Instantly I thought to myself, right, I’m not the only one. It isn’t a weird thing. I should have got help sooner, we all should have talked about it sooner.”
Almost 3 in 10 (29%) of the men surveyed said loneliness and isolation had made them feel low in the past, Paul explains; “At Samaritans we understand the value of talking and the power of human connection. Just two people talking can really help that person to stop, breathe and start to see a way through their problems. Samaritans gives people the space to be themselves. We won’t judge or tell you what to do, we’re here to listen.”
Darran Latham, 38, shares his story, “It was pretty difficult the first time I rang Samaritans. I was homeless by that point and I’d been put in some emergency shelter. I was drinking quite heavily. I’d had suicide attempts in the past, but it was usually when I was drunk. One morning I woke up and I didn’t have that to hide behind. I didn’t want to not be there. That’s when I reached out and called Samaritans. And I’m really glad I did.”
Ex-Premier League footballer and professional boxer, Leon McKenzie is supporting the campaign, sharing his story to help encourage other men to seek help. “I know how tough it gets when you’re in that dark place. I’ve been there, not wanting to exist anymore. By sharing my story and supporting the campaign, I hope other men understand that you can climb back up with some help.”
There will be more than fifty local events in England, Wales and Scotland to help promote the campaign.