On the 4th March 2009, my dad took his own life. It was completely unexpected because, on paper, he had everything.
The doctors labelled him as a green light and not suicidal when he sought help just a few months before his death due to him having a job, family, and good physical health. But inside, my dad suffered in pain and saw suicide as the only way to end it.
I was 18 when it happened, and that moment turned my life upside down. It changed the lives of so many people – my mum, who met my dad when she was just 15, my older brother, my nan and grandad who lost their only son … but to many others, my dad was just a number on a piece of paper. Just one of over 6,000 people who die from suicide every year in the UK.
Suicide is the biggest killer of men under 45, and as I write this at 28 years old, it scares me that the biggest threat to my life right now is me. Suicide is also the biggest killer of young people, and as a dad myself now, knowing that the biggest threat to my children’s lives is themselves is another scary thought. It’s a thought that drives me to write this post, and to continue to raise awareness around mental health, depression and suicide.
There’s still a huge stigma that surrounds mental health and suicide itself. When my dad ended his life I struggled to deal with it. Internally I was broken, but I felt like I needed to put on a brave face to show I was dealing with it. Even worse, I lied about how he died when people asked me. Writing that now hurts, but at the time I lied because I feared the person I was telling would judge my dad for who he was as a man. I feared they’d judge me and my family, and I wanted to avoid the awkward silences and conversations that would follow if I told them. Instead of saying “my dad died from suicide”, I simply said, “he died in a road accident”.
But the silence around suicide is affecting the next generation. It’s also affecting everyone who’s struggling right now. But we can’t stand up to this huge issue alone; it needs to be something we stand against together.
Together we need to break the silence and stigma that surrounds mental health and suicide. We need to talk openly, to show others that they no longer need to suffer in silence.
We need to pay attention to the younger generation, and how they manage their emotions. After all, they’re going to lead the way soon for future generations, so teaching them openness and coping mechanisms for mental health is crucial.
Even if it’s just talking more openly about it, raising awareness, because with awareness comes prevention. We often neglect the importance of sharing something on social media or talking about it, but if we can talk so much about mental health that the next generation doesn’t have to suffer from the stigma, that awareness will be worth it.
We need to know that it’s ok not to be ok. That it’s ok to talk about suicide and about mental health as a whole. There’s no need to feel ashamed.
For World Suicide Prevention Day, I challenge you to share, to talk openly, to reach out to someone you think needs your help or to simply remember those who’ve died by suicide. I challenge you to join those shouting from the rooftops to bring awareness to suicide and mental health, and come together to stand up to suicide.
I personally also want to thank everyone at Shaw Mind for the amazing work they do surrounding suicide amongst young people.
To find out more about me, get in touch with me at www.pmcgregor.com
My full story can be read in my upcoming book, Man Up Man Down, which can be preordered now.