The Campaign Against Living Miserably (Calm) is the leading UK charity dedicated to preventing male suicide. Simon Gunning, its chief executive officer, reveals what is being done to encourage men to open up about their emotions
We take a two-fold approach to changing and saving lives: firstly providing support for men who are down or in crisis, and secondly campaigning for culture change to tackle outdated stereotypes of masculinity that prevent men seeking help.
We do this in the face of a problem that is deeply entrenched. Many men feel forced to stoically “man up” (whatever that means) and grind through bad times without societal permission to open up or seek help. Calm’s research shows that while 67% of women tell someone about going through depression, only 55% of men do the same.
The result? Men are three times more likely than women to take their own lives and suicide is the single biggest killer of men aged between 20 and 49 – something the Duke of Cambridge describes as “an appalling stain on our society”.
But the tide is turning. Since Calm was founded 10 years ago, awareness of male suicide has trebled. Definitively, men are talking more. Calm alone has taken 200,000 helpline calls to date, and prevented more than 1,000 suicides.
The work of organisations and campaigns such as Lift The Weight and the royals’ mental health campaign Heads Together (Calm is a partner charity of the latter) – is a massive step forward. Historically, the alpha-male archetype has had no time for conversations about emotions but, in recent weeks, this has been dismissed by men such as Stormzy, Rio Ferdinand, and Calm’s patron Professor Green – strong, famous, tough men explaining how communication has, in some way, saved their lives.
There is still much work to be done. The emphasis now is to move beyond the rallying cry to open up. We must better equip ourselves, our mates, our workplaces, schools and health services to support those who need it. And we start by building a generation who believe that society’s ideas of your gender should not be a death sentence.
In the UK, the Samaritans can be contacted on 116 123.
In the US, the National Suicide Prevention Hotline is 1-800-273-8255.
In Australia, the crisis support service Lifeline is on 13 11 14.
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