It’s International Women’s Day on Friday 8th March. The theme this year is ‘building a gender balanced world’ but I want to talk about balancing support for mental health. This week, Keith Flint from the Prodigy killed himself. His green-hair picture is more shocking than the news story, because male suicide no longer surprises us. We tut and say, ‘tragic’ and turn the page.
There are always patchy reasons why it happened. Divorce, cancer. We need something to pin it on to make us feel safe. None of us are safe from mental ill-health.
Depression is not a weakness, it’s a deficiency. We have no problem taking cod liver oil, or an effervescent vitamin C tablet, but antidepressants are the social outcasts of supplements. The neighbours who leave mattresses in their front garden.
We can only see the world through the kaleidoscope of our experiences, beliefs, politics and persuasions. We cannot see someone else’s life from someone else’s perception, so we judge them from our own. I’m not scared of wasps. My brother is. This doesn’t make him weaker than me. I will take anxiety medication for the rest of my life, but I am not scared of wasps. I am not weaker than him.
My post-natal depression got to the point where I didn’t want to wake up. In my head the Stone Roses sang ‘Stop the world, stop the world, I’m getting off.’ Luckily, I had midwives and health-care visitors checking up on me. My struggle was spotted I was inundated with support. I told someone how I felt. No shame. I got some sleep. I ate oranges. I learned to love myself.
Men don’t get the same care offered when they become fathers. There is no male midwife-man to talk to about lack of sleep, financial worries, or the fact their wife has become a stranger since becoming a mother.
Men are being left out in the emotional cold. You don’t see Radox adverts of men relaxing in the bath, and spas advertise women with cucumbers over their eyes.
Suicide is not a sudden decision, it’s bindweed that grows until everything is strangled by it.
Frightened Rabbit singer Scott Hutchinson sang ‘And fully clothed, I float away down the Forth, into the sea. I think I'll save suicide for another day.’ His body was found on the shore. He’d predicted his own death.
Rapper Mac Miller wrote the lyrics ‘I don't need to lie no more, Nowadays all I do is shine, take a breath and ease my mind’ after a bout of depression. He won that battle but lost the war and was found dead in his home. He was 26.
Keith Flint’s death needs to be the domino that causes the landslide. The white flag that symbolises the need to parley.
Let’s stop judging men. We life in a pressure-cooker environment, with anxiety inducing social media, global political uncertainty and financial instability. We don’t need to find reasons why men aren’t coping. It’s more surprising that people manage to be happy in this pea-thick soup of a sad, sad world.
Matt Haig, author of How to Stay Alive said ‘Men still have the old pressures of identity, to be strong and successful and emotionally neutral and fully in control … and we now have pressures women have always known: the pressure to look good, to be perfectly groomed and gym-bodied… add the socialisation of media, where everyone is on eternal display, in their own knowing versions of The Truman Show, continually adding to their Instagrammed display of happiness … We need to realise feminism is not the enemy. It is, in many ways, a solution. The narrow emotional range we have allowed ourselves needs a radical overhaul.’
Yesterday I watched a toddler walking in the lines of the ‘KEEP CLEAR’ road markings. He had no idea what the words meant, or the danger behind them. He was lost in his own little yellow brick road. Sturdy feet in sturdy shoes stomping back and forth. The sky darkened and his mum zipped up his coat in case of rain. When a dog barked, he jumped, and she took his hand. Told him it was okay.
Somewhere down the line this will stop. He’ll be expected to check the sky for rain, love himself enough to wear a coat. Comfort himself at the dog bark. Is that maturity and strength of character, or is that the saddest realisation in the world? The messages of love that pour in after a death, all came a little late. Tell people you cherish them now. Pop their hoods up when it rains.
When I say bye to my family I ask ‘who loves you baby? and they say back ‘You do mumma’ And I say, ‘remember it. Every single day.’