It’s Mens Health Week 2016 and the theme this year is ’stress’.
Stress matters because if we don’t release stress, it can turn into something way more serious and as an industry, let’s face it, we have stressful jobs sometimes. One in four of us will likely develop a mental health problem in the UK (odds of 3 to 1 or about the same as France or Germany winning the Euro 2016 football tournament) and stress can be a huge factor in that.
As part of Mens Health Week I was asked to keynote at a groundbreaking conference in the Midlands called ‘ManMade’ which has been set up to talk about one of the most heartbreaking causes of death to men, in the UK, today. Imagine a virus we don’t fully understand that is killing men (our fathers, sons, brothers and colleagues) in record numbers everyday. It kills three times as many British men as women. The government confirms that while almost all other leading causes of death are being slowly eroded by medical and social progress, deaths caused by this virus are at their highest for decades. The virus is ‘silence’ and the deaths are being caused by suicide.
Statistically, men in the UK aged between 20 and 49 are now more likely to die from suicide than any other cause of death including cancer. However, the money we spend on researching and treating the problem of suicide stands at a fraction of what we spend on those other leading causes of death, as do charitable donations from the public. Of all sucides in the UK, c75% of them (from the causes of death that are officially registered as suicide) are men. It’s become the most silent and deadliest killer in the UK.
Stress has many outcomes and for many men and the outcome can be fatal. The message at ManMade was very simple – we must find a way, to help men talk about how they feel. We must find a way to help men to ask for help to beat stress. We must find a way to help men understand what causes their stress and we must stand unified in the message that there is no shame in asking for help or asking somebody that you know or work with, if they are OK.
At the conference, inspirational mental health campaigner and ambassador of Teen Line Ireland, Jamie Harrington, was adamant that suicides can be prevented by saying three simple words to our friends, colleagues, family members and children; “Are you ok?” because in his words one suicide is one too many & we all need to promote is a culture that supports men throughout our own eco-systems to open up and talk about their issues, their stresses and to feel like being macho is not being macho at all.
I was humbled by the stories that I heard and the bravery of the people sharing them. People who had survived serious mental health complications and suicide attempts like the amazing Jonny Benjamin. Cadi Lambert telling her story of how it feels to be the loved one of a man who has taken their life. National champions like Rohan Kallicharan and Chief Inspector Sean Russell from the West Midlands Police force leading the charge — the message from all was very clear, talking is the start of a cure.
So how does this affect BIMA and all our brilliant members? Well, it’s very simple… We all have male colleagues around us who look a little bit stressed or a little bit tired. Lean across the desk, or stop them at the water cooler and say those three little words; “Are you OK?” because you never know, that might save their life and that is our commitment to Mens Health Week 2016, promoting just three tiny words to everybody who works in every corner of every company connected to each other through the BIMA network.
To find out more about ManMade please visit www.manmade.org.uk and please connect and support the amazing organisations that are fighting this battle; @forwardforlife / @ukmanmade / @common_unity_ and @sortoutsuicide