For men, depression’s just not something we feel comfortable talking about. It never has been. We’re brought up in a chest-beating, macho bullshit world: football and sport, TV, media and magazines all shove down our throats what it means to be a man. And that never, ever includes talking about how we’re feeling. Even the advent of so-called ‘metrosexuality’, where it suddenly became acceptable for men to moisturise, care about how they look, and discuss Beckham’s latest man-bag didn’t break the impenetrable wall between ‘modern masculinity’ and ‘being open about our feelings’. As much as society’s progressing, most men’s attitudes towards their own emotions still feel like a throwback to stiff-upper-lipped shitting-in-a-pot cor-blimey-guv’nor Victorian times. It makes no sense.
CALM, a charity founded in Merseyside and now working across the country, have been doing positive things to change all this. Their products, parties, leaflets, magazines, websites and all-important helpline tell us that – hey! – it’s OK to feel like this. And to talk about it. You’re not the only one. There’s absolutely nothing strange or unusual about it. You’re not weird, or weak.
Depression’s a pertinent subject at the moment. After the shock death of former footballer Gary Speed, it’s a topic that’s been pushed to the fore once more, and gained media attention once again. It’s just a shame it had to be under such tragic and avoidable circumstances.
Crucially, CALM is endorsed by an army of celebrities and musicians – Zane Lowe, Rob Da Bank and The Maccabees all played their most recent party at Top Man on Oxford Street, and many more have been featured in CALM’s magazine and website talking about their own battles with the illness. It’s a display of solidarity that’s important. For every one of these well-known faces who talks about their dark days, it might help another man open up to one of their mates, or one of CALM’s helpline employees, or the Samaritans. Or any number of people who are there, ready and waiting to talk stuff over and get your head straight.
Over the past ten years, suicide’s been the biggest killer of men under 35. Suicide. Men who see no way out. No other option to escape the vast blackness they see every day than to escape it forever. It’s a shocking fact, and one that we should be collectively working towards reversing.
My own struggle with the illness dates back to when I was at university, and varied – as most do – from feeling a bit glum to being a numb, blank, vegetative shell unable to get out of bed. Mine lifted, as many do, abruptly one day – what felt like the end of the world one day suddenly felt as inconsequential as stubbing my toe. It’s always lingering and ready to pounce again, though, and now I’m not afraid to talk about it. It’s that light at the end of the tunnel that many people need to hear still exists, and that’s where the CALM helpline comes in.
As we head towards the festive/New Year weeks where we’re expected to have fun – where it’s forced upon us, even if we’re not feeling up to it – CALM is a charity that becomes a crucial tool. December and January can be a time where we reflect, and have the time to reflect, on what we’ve won and lost and how our lives are moving forward. For all the glitz and parties and bluster, it’s just not a happy time for everyone. Particularly if you’re familiar with the black cloud of depression.
CALM’s first ten years have been documented in a great new book, ‘The CALM Campaign On Merseyside: Ten Years Young’ (pictured). Penned by the award-winning Fiona Shaw, it features interviews with supporters and documents some of CALM’s projects over the past decade. You can buy it now.
It’s important to support organisations like CALM. Not only is it a local charity, and one we should be proud of, but it runs entirely off donations. The number of lives it’s saved – talented, bright men (maybe even some of your own friends) must run into the thousands. To lose a generation of young men to suicide is a needless, tragic, and pointless waste.
CALM – The Campaign Against Living Miserably
Freephone 0800 585858