This may sound flippant, however these past few weeks, my job and my life has made me think about this very deeply. I am mother to a son, wife to a husband and various things have made me think about this – and especially as we mark World Mental Health Day on October 10.
Men’s mental health is very damaged – it just is. All of the stats confirm it. Of course, women have mental health issues too but three out of every four people who take their own lives are men or boys. That has to be called out, we have to take notice of that.
In the last month, I reconnected with a mum, Tracey, whose son went to the same childminder as my girls. They went to different schools and we drifted away as often happens in life. Shockingly I found out a few weeks ago that this bubbly little boy took his own life while on holiday in 2019. Since then Tracey has raised £1000s for CALM, the Campaign Against Living Miserably.
Tracey and I met up and chatted for four hours about why, why, why, why? She has no answers, only guesses. I have little comfort to offer other than a listening ear. We have many photographs of Alex when he was little but she’s not in a place to see them so we will keep them until she’s ready. If she is ever ready.
CALM, the charity was set up in 1997 to stand against suicide. Statistics this year show that 125 lives are lost every week to suicide and 75% are male. The life-saving helpline charity exists to change this. Originally it was set up as an NHS pilot, starting in Merseyside. CALM became a national charity in 2006, being able to support people across the country. However funding allows it only to operate its helpline for seven hours a day, seven days a week.
Since its start, CALM has managed to gain a lot of support from many big names, gaining great PR for the charity.
*2010-2011: Picking up 13,000 calls this year.
Launch of Reset, a free mag in Topman, featuring famous faces and features focused on the reset moments which have driven people to turn their lives around.
*2011-2012: Picking up 28,930 helpline calls this year.
Mancunian musicians including Noel Gallagher, Elbow and Everything Everything released a single, ‘Thirty One Songs’ and raised 20k for the charity
Ashley Walters, Fonejackers, Kayvan Novak and rapper Scroobius Pip were featured in billboards rolled out across inner London.
*2015: Picking up 55,946 helpline calls this year.
Rapper Professor Green made an appeal on the charity’s behalf in a film for the BBC.
*2016-2017: Featured in the Royal Foundation’ Heads Together campaign.
CALM beer mats appeared in pubs, clubs and cafes to encourage men to chat to their mates about how they’re feeling.
*2018-2019: Picking up 95,167 calls.
*2019 – 2020: Even through the unsettled time of the pandemic, the charity continued to support people.
Picking up 134,982 calls and webchats.
CALM now has a host of ambassadors including: Shirley Ballas, Lewis Capaldi, Rio Ferdinand, Professor Green, Romesh Ranganathan and more.
Just looking at the numbers of calls the charity is receiving and their growth since 1997 shows how many people are contemplating suicide or have ‘dangerous’ moments and how a charity like CALM is needed.
Then I met up with Dan Stanley, who has just published his first book ‘Rethinking Masculinity – a modern man’s guide to succeeding in life’. I’m not great at reading text books to be honest, I like personal stories but even the first chapter resonated heavily with me and I’m going to ask my son to read it.
Dan, who came through his own crisis in life, has now taken his ‘superficial successful past’ and re-shaped his life to work with men – and he’s founded BetterMen. He says his crisis transformed him ultimately and he wants to help others too.
BetterMen is all about professional self-development coaching that helps successful professional men improve their wellbeing, work-life balance and personal relationships through scientifically-proven approaches.
Men are often feeling burned out, or stuck in a rut, or unmotivated in life. Even when successful, they may still feel dissatisfied with where they are and are unsure about how to improve their feelings or their quality of life.
Dan talks about modern day masculinity as being dysfunctional, and his book and his coaching is there to support men to find their direction and personal happiness. Too many men are feeling lost, Dan believes.
He also runs a free organisation called Men & Mountains which is here:
I share these stories to show there are men thinking differently out there – men who want to reconnect with life, purpose, family and we have to embrace those men so that others don’t take the only route they feel is open to them in a bad moment, or a bad day or a bad period because they cannot see light at the end of their tunnel.
RIP Alex ‘Box’ Boxall.