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The CALM before the storm

Here we share a blog written by CALM’s CEO Jane Powell for Huffington Post, after the launch of a new coalition of frontline services tackling male suicide, and on the cusp of the launch of Heads Together, a new national campaign fronted by the Royal Foundation.

With only a couple of days to go before the Heads Together launch, I find myself wondering what this will all bring, what kind of dent will this collaboration make with the issue which faces CALM. Seventy-six per cent of all suicides are male.

Nationally only 29 people in every 100 correctly identify suicide as the single biggest killer of all men. We’ve 8.5 people on the helpline every night, providing phone and webchat. This time next year, what will this picture look like? How will we have moved the dial?

Yesterday the Duke of Cambridge welcomed the launch of our ‘Coalface Coalition’, with representation from Roads, Rail, Police, Fire, Ambulance and RNLI, Samaritans and Lynx. The ambition is to work upstream – or in normal language to try and tackle the source of the issue.

PHOTO: Hannah Goodwin

PHOTO: Hannah Goodwin

We want to enable guys to support each other early on, which calls for creating social change. The plan is that working together we come up with both online support, and crucially a campaign, in which we pull in the rest of society to support it. So no small ambition. But then it’s a formidable group with formidable expertise.

As it was the launch was covered on a number of national broadcast agencies – but it was light-touch. Nationally, despite the devastation caused by every suicide – to the friends, family, colleagues and all those working ‘at the coalface’, the topic has yet to make it as a central public issue. Which it should be. With an average of 12 men a day, according to published figures, male suicide costs the country £20million PER DAY. A cost which excludes suicide attempts. So the leading killer of men under 45 in the UK and eye-wateringly expensive. But it barely makes it as a serious ‘news’ story.

Let’s not be grudging, it did make it into the news.

What do I hope for the year ahead? What could be more exciting than to think about cracking the stigma surrounding suicide? His mum took the stigma out of AIDS. This is no less of an issue, and no less tough. Suicide, and particularly male suicide, sits as one of the top three leading killers of men in most countries around the world, if not number one. To date few people have been willing to lead on this issue. But when the attempts have been made, like Professor Green, in his documentary Suicide and Me, the response has been overwhelming. So I reckon it could be done. No pressure.

Just talking about suicide won’t in itself make the difference. Nor will it help just to tell guys to ‘talk’. We need to go further. To nail this one we have to make the notion of masculinity bigger, more inclusive, more tolerant. Strong and silent is the definition of a doormat, and frankly it’s pretty limiting and offensive.

As a woman I love the fact that I’m able to define what I am by… well, what I am. If men are to talk, are to reach out, are to insist that they can be fallible, and still be a man, then we have to challenge a concept of masculinity which leads men to thinking there’s only one door when things go wrong.

Everything to play for.

Jane’s original blog was posted here. For more of her blogs on Huffington Post, click here.

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