When I was 18, after a fun night out, I dropped off a friend and said goodbye for the night. Later the next day I found out he had taken his own life that very night. In the weeks that followed it became clear that he had many issues that he kept behind closed doors. I knew him as a happy-go-lucky character without a care in the world.
Yesterday I heard another story of a boyhood friend who had followed the same path. I began to add up men that I had known and lost. Without over-thinking I was soon closing in on double figures. Asking female friends they struggle to think of one. When I think of my male friends, I see laughing faces, boisterous nights out, games of football and for want of a better word- banter. I have never had deep meaningful conversations with my male friends, and if one of my them started to I would feel awkward and even though I would try and support them, I know I would want it to end quickly. Sometimes Sonya will ask me what we talked about after a day at football with my friends. She soon gave up on that one. We don’t talk. We laugh. We joke. We take the p****.
I have been through some real low points in my life. Whenever it happens I force myself to deal with it, I don’t ask for help. I man up. As you get older you realise that this was not what I should have done. Yes I got through it but I have pushed people away to avoid awkward conversations. I didn’t pick up the phone, I internalised it all. I have carried it all with me, the whole weight, when I know there were people around me who would have gladly lightened the load.
In October, a 17 year old footballer who had been released by Manchester City took his life. In this situation, the care and support you receive when being dealt this devastating news is non existent. Someone I used to play with at Tottenham spoke on social media about how low he was when he was released as a young man from Spurs, his life seeming in tatters. I could understand fully as did many others judging by the responses on his timeline. Honestly, I don’t think I ever got over my dream being taken from me at such a young age.
77% of suicides are men. Let that sit for a moment.
I despair sometimes at some ways in which the world is changing. But I will hold my hands up- some things do need to change.