Losing somebody close to you is a massive shock to the system. It changes the dynamic of your entire life; you couldn’t possibly say how or why – not even when it happens to you. There’ll always be that empty space at birthdays, Christmas, anniversaries. As time goes on we learn to live with our loss, and the cloud of grief that fogs our mind becomes less hazy as we begin to accept the changes.
But when it is suicide, for those left behind, it is so much harder to accept their loss. There is no logic. The questions eat away at the back of your mind. Every day we are tormented by them. “Why?” “Did I say something wrong?” “Why didn’t he say something?” “Did he know how much we loved him?” “What could I have done to change it?”
“Nothing. There isn’t anything you could have said or done to change things.” That’s the answer I’m most commonly given. It’s an answer that I know people think will bring comfort. Yet instead I feel myself gritting my teeth. So what? Do we sit back and watch as so many fall victim to the hands of such a cruel and isolated way to end their lives?
Around five thousand, six hundred and eight people took their own life in 2010. On paper it is just a number. Another mere government statistic. In reality that is five thousand, six hundred and eight families, five thousand, six hundred and eight communities, more than five thousand, six hundred and eight people left so deeply affected by suicide. And that’s just in the space of twelve months. Just in the UK. Four thousand, two hundred and thirty one people included in this statistic were male. Quite an unbalanced gender proportion, don’t you think? So are people still going to tell me “there isn’t anything you can do”?
It’s time to put an end to the British stiff upper lip. No more “There isn’t anything you could have said or done”. No more negativity. No more numbers on paper. This is where C.A.L.M comes in.
I first heard of C.A.L.M when my dearest friend John Anderson took his own life in April 2011. He was just weeks away from his 25th birthday and had everything to look forward to: a promising career, holidays to plan, flat hunting with his best friend, birthday events with friends and family, and a beautiful baby nephew on the way. He was handsome, outgoing, charismatic, lively, and cheerful. He was a talented footballer too. He had the most loving family and a huge circle of friends. In fact, most people would envy him. Even for to those closest to John it was – and still is – inconceivable that he could have taken his own life.
John’s family requested for donations to be made to C.A.L.M at John’s funeral service. Admittedly, C.AL.M was a new concept to me, so I looked into the charity’s manifesto, and was inspired by their efforts to reach out to those who feel most vulnerable. C.A.L.M can see that there are too many young men in Britain who take the world on their shoulders and try to uphold this ‘stiff upper lip’ image. We tell boys not to cry. We tell boys to be tough. C.A.L.M is there to show that actually, it is ok to cry. It is ok to feel the pressures of modern life. And it is ok to talk.
We are all still consumed by the grief of losing John, but C.A.L.M has helped to channel our grief into something positive. The tormenting question “what could I have done to change it?” has now become “what can I do to change it?”
In December 2011 I joined John’s friends Andrew Holden and Jamie Gill to host an event in John’s name. We held a football tournament at a local sports centre. Later that evening we hosted a night in John’s local pub The Railway Inn, Wirral. We had a buffet, a DJ, Shameless Frank Gallagher impersonator, a raffle, and an auction. We wore t shirts emblazoned with the C.A.L.M logo, and each had our favourite photograph of John printed on the front. So many of John’s friends and family helped to organise the day. It was a warm and happy occasion, which epitomised John’s shining personality. What’s more, we were able to spread the word about C.A.L.M and the fantastic efforts they put into helping young men who feel at their lowest ebb.
Through months of hard work planning our event, and with the generosity of others, we raised over £2000 for C.A.L.M. Wherever that money goes, we can be assured that C.A.L.M is working so hard to prevent the stigma attached to suicide and helping so many young men to turn their lives around. I’m still so sad without John, and we all miss him so very much. But I am proud that he has shown us the way to C.A.L.M, and that our money will help so many others.