Men Tell Their Stories

Brothers, Not Numbers

Greetings from the United States of America. I come to you with a universal message.  MEN, WE SUCK AT DISCUSSING MENTAL HEALTH!  Hold on there fella, you did not come to this blog to get yelled at. OK, I get that. Let me explain where I am coming from first....

My name is Dennis Gillan and unfortunately, through my lived experience, I now know a thing or two about mental ill-health. The keyword there is 'two'.

You see I lost two brothers to suicide, eleven years apart and sometimes I get a little upset…. just a little. I miss those guys and now my life’s mission is to reduce the number of completed suicides in the world and there is no better place to start than with men.

You see here in the States, men account for 76% of all completed suicides.  A quick check of the interweb and the figures are similar for the UK, so I am going to go out on a limb here and say wherever you are reading this, more men than women die by suicide.

Women are not off the hook, as they have more attempts, but this is a blog for a site called MEN TELL HEALTH, so we will stick with the dudes!  Sadly, the older we get, the worse the data gets.  Guys aged 40-44 have the highest rates of suicide on both sides of the pond.  Several theories abound as to why this is, but keep this in mind, of those who die from suicide, more than 90% have a diagnosable mental disorder. People who die by suicide are frequently experiencing undiagnosed, undertreated, or untreated depression.  (Source: http://depts.washington.edu/mhreport/facts_suicide.php )

Now I’m a storyteller, not a data geek, but it’s important to know the genesis of these horrible numbers and it all lends credence to the fact that, as men, we need to go upstream and get real comfortable talking about mental health.

When my first brother died by suicide, we did not talk about it and I think that was a contributing factor to why we lost my younger brother. Sad to even type it, but it’s true. We just went about our business after the first suicide and pretended it never happened and then the second one hit. 

I ran into a counsellor’s office, which I should have done after the first suicide, but here we are.  Not trying to make this blog about me, but one other thing I did was I took a timeout from drinking alcohol and that timeout has lasted over 23 years.  But enough about me, let’s get back to men and this is where I need your help!

I now speak publicly about my losses to start some very important conversations about mental health, but here is my dilemma.  Remember earlier I told you about three-quarters of the completed suicides are men?  Well, when I do my talk on mental health about three-quarters of the audience are women.  Not that I’m complaining, but where are the men? Specifically, where are the 40 or older guys as this is the group with the highest risk for suicide? 

I love what the folks at MEN TELL HEALTH are doing with their groups, and I know a good idea when I steal one, so I am going to give one of these SpeakEasy groups (https://www.mentellhealth.org/groups/) a trial here in the States. But just like when I give my award-winning talks, I can see myself worrying about people showing up, and if I make it “guys only” I will triple my worry!  Sidebar: Did anyone catch the “award-winning” description concerning my talks?  One school gave me a shirt after my talk and I am counting that as an award!

Ok, I shared my losses and my dilemma with getting men involved in this MENtal health movement, see what I did there?  Now it’s your turn.  I truly believe we are at a positive tipping point and men are ready to talk about these “taboo” issues like mental health, but how do we accelerate this acceptance level. Simply put, what would YOU do to get more men involved in mental health?

That is an active question and if you read this far you are an active participant!  There is a comments section below in this blog and we need to hear from you.  What shall we all do to get the word out to more men that it is ok to say that you are not ok when it comes to mental health? 

The time is now, here in the states we lost 44, 193 lives to suicide and 33,994 of those were guys.  That stinks on ice, but I am heartened that there are websites like www.mentellhealth.org and it’s starting to feel like we finally give a shit. It couldn’t be a men’s article without one curse word!

Now get to work below and share your thoughts on how we can get men out to public forums on mental health worldwide.

By the way, my brother's names were Mark and Matthew and I miss them dearly. Peace.

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You heard Dennis, get commenting below! What do you think?

As he mentioned, Dennis now talks public about raising awareness of mental health and you can find out more about that on his own website at www.dennisgillan.com Alternatively, you can follow him on Twitter, where he's @Dgillan or you can 'Like' his Facebook page over at DennisGillanSpeaker.

You can also hear Dennis talking on a number of podcasts, namely the Live Insired Podcast with John O'Leary and Al Levin's The Depression Files