Today marks the 5th anniversary of World Suicide Prevention Day – here’s how to spot symptoms and help someone who is struggling
Suicide is the single biggest killer of men under the age of 45 in the UK and, in 2018, 75% of all suicide victims in the UK were male. Most worryingly and between a third and a half of those who die by suicide have never sought help and are not even known to the system.
One place where men are beginning to open up though is at the hairdressers. Tom Chapman is the founder of the Lions Barber Collective, a men’s mental health awareness and suicide prevention charity. Chapman is turning barbershops into safe spaces for men using the opportunity of a regular haircut to start conversations about mental health. He works hard to educate barbers in how to spot the symptoms of mental health and depression, whilst encouraging men to talk to their barbers (and each other) about their issues. The group is having an enormous impact with men who traditional mental health services can struggle to reach.
Chapman organises a professionally run training programme called BarberTalk, which is teaching barbers to recognise the signs, ask the right questions, listen with empathy and without judgement and the knowledge to help them find the help they need.
When it comes to spotting symptoms Chapman says “Recognise any change in normal behaviour. This may be a sign that something isn’t right. Maybe they have gained or lost weight quickly, are sleeping too much or not enough, more frantic or subdued than normal. These are all signs that we should ask that question “How are you feeling today?” It doesn’t have to be a serious mental health issue but talking about this problem will help prevent further ill mental health.” Follow Chapman’s advice if you think someone you know is struggling:
Loneliness and isolation are big killers and hugely damaging to our mental health. If you’re at home with family make the most of it by checking in with male members to see how they’re really feeling. We are all normally too busy to spend genuinely quality time together so take the time to talk. If you cant meet in person utilise tech for face-to-face video calls, set up group chats and take time to call an elderly relative who may be stuck at home alone. Its the one action that might make their day bearable.
Get outside -take advantage of the numerous free online exercise videos you can access daily on streaming services. Getting some form of exercise in each day will hugely improve mental health and energy levels.
Learn a language, read a book, hell even write a book! Learning gives a sense of self-worth and accomplishment that will no doubt keep mental fitness. It also like exercise instills a positive routine.
This doesn’t have to be meditation in the traditional form, it just needs to be taking time to live in the moment. This can be whilst going for a walk and thinking about the sounds you hear, the way the ground feels, the smells and your breathing. However, it can also be at home playing Nintendo with your son. I found this out recently – when I lost a few hours to being present in the game itself, my sons reactions, the controller in my hands and trying not to lose to a 4 year old. I forgot about everything else for that moment and felt so refreshed afterwards.