The delicate issue of male suicide is brought to UK homes this evening as the BBC's Panorama shows Simon Jack's film, "A Suicide in the Family." The film is of personal interest as Simon's father took his own life when Simon was only 19. Twenty-five years on, he is now the same age his father was when he committed suicide. Simon wanted to use the film to explore the reasons why this tragic event happened that shook his whole family. As he puts it, "One January morning my father left the family home and took his own life."
It has not been an easy project for Simon and has involved asking searching questions amongst his family. Initially, his brothers were not keen to discuss the issue as it was too raw. Eventually, his mother agreed to be interviewed on film and Simon describes how he found out more about the challenges his father was facing a quarter of a century ago. Rather than being angry, Jack admits to being sorry for his Dad that he had arrived at such a place - the point of no return.
Whilst investigating his own family history, he was able to discover that male suicide is the biggest killer amongst men under 50 and that his Dad was in the most vulnerable age group. Indeed men are four times more likely to kill themselves than women. Even amongst younger men, it is responsible for 25% deaths amongst men between the ages of 20-34. The figures show that it causes on average 100 deaths a week amongst men, 4858 in total in the UK last year.
During the filming, Simon Jack tries to explore why it is particularly men who suffer. Whilst there are no hard and fast causes, it is generally perceived to stem from men's inability to express themselves or to speak openly about their feelings. Too often, men feel under pressure to be seen to be coping and to appear to be outwardly strong. Admitting that there is a problem is seen to be demonstrating a weakness.
This was borne out during his interview with former hard-man, Rugby League star Ian Knott, who used to play for Warrington Wolves. Following a career-ending injury, Knott found readjusting to life impossible to cope with, despite having a wife and children and led to his attempting to end his life. He now is a spokesman for State of Mind where he encourages former sports stars to open up and share their experiences.
Last month, former PFA chairman Clarke Carlisle also brought the issue of depression into the spotlight when he helped Nick Clegg launch The Mental Health Charter for Sport and Recreation. He admitted in an interview to the Sun that he had attempted suicide in December by stepping out in front of a moving lorry, stating that "I had to die." Following six weeks recuperation in a hospital, Carlisle is now able to speak out openly about the subject and encourage others to come forward.
Support services are available to people experiencing issues of suicide and depression including MIND, Rethink and the Samaritans. The Samaritans provides emotional support at any time 24 hours a day and can be contacted on 08457 909090. #Television