Shining a light on suicide
Carl Austin-Behan, LGBT Advisor to the Mayor of Manchester
“It’s so easy to put on a front. We need to get behind the mask.”
Carl Austin-Behan, LGBT Advisor to the Mayor of Greater Manchester, shares his thoughts on why it’s critically important to shine a light on suicide.
“It’s so important that we normalise talking about suicide, to break the stigma and to bring the conversation out into the open. Not being afraid to start the conversation is the only way to address this issue, which is the leading cause of death in people aged 15 to 29. This is why I’m getting behind the Shining a Light on Suicide campaign.
“I believe that people feel ashamed of reaching out. They think, ‘It’s not cancer, I’m not seriously ill, some people are going through real crises, whereas I’m just feeling low.’
“In my experience, it’s the people I’d least suspect of struggling who are the most affected. This is what I mean about getting behind the mask. It’s so easy to put on a front and hide your real feelings behind it.
“In the LGBT community, hate crime especially can have a massive impact. I feel so strongly that hate crime has almost been written off as unimportant and ‘just name calling,’ whereas in fact it can have a huge impact on the people targeted. According to Stonewall, a massive four out of five LGBT people who are the victims of hate crime don’t report it, whether they feel it’s a minor or a serious incident. The effect of this is to make those people feel small and worthless, and to hide who they are.
“ The inevitable next step is that people don’t speak up if they are struggling. It’s then that people can start to feel isolated, and that there’s nowhere to turn.
“That’s why I’m shining a light on the LGBT community in Greater Manchester, and on trans people in our community in particular, who are especially vulnerable. We’ve come a long way in the last 20 years but the issues for trans people are more complex and still endure today.
“I believe one hundred percent that talking and reaching out to someone can be the biggest life saver. Men in particular shy away from talking about their feelings and can find it difficult to open up. Admitting that you’re struggling and seeking help, however, is a sign of strength.
“People are frightened of talking about suicide, because they think, wrongly, that if you ask the question, you might actually trigger suicidal thoughts and suicide. I believe the opposite is true. Opening up and talking about feelings – or even just reaching out to someone who’s posted a comment on social media – is critically important, and could help save a life. If people don’t know what they should do, however, they end up doing nothing.
“Suicide isn’t the solution to any problem. Talking about this is the only way to stop it from being driven underground and, tragically, only coming to light after it’s too late.”
Carl is supporting the ‘Shining A Light on Suicide’ campaign, which has been commissioned by Greater Manchester Health and Social Care Partnership to take the sensitive subject of suicide out of the dark and encourage everyone to talk about it in an honest, open and direct way, so no one sees suicide as a solution to their problems.
Suicide is the biggest killer of men under 49, women aged between 20 and 34 and is the leading cause of death in people aged 15 to 29.
Statistics show that men in the main, who have died by suicide, did not ask for help or speak to someone before they took their life.
The #shiningalightonsuicide campaign will encourage people to talk about suicide in an honest and open way so no one feels it is a solution to their problems.
After being discharged from the military Owen suffered from social isolation and suicidal thoughts.
At the age of 30 England rugby league player Danny Sculthorpe signed a four-year deal with Super League team Bradford Bulls.
“I really believe that the more we have conversations about the more we find the right language. I can remember a time we didn’t talk about cancer and people didn’t go for help.”
Michael has battled depression and suicidal thoughts all of his adult life.
“I’m under 50, I’m male, I’m gay, I have type 1 diabetes and I was previously bullied in the workplace,” says Dennis, a survivor of multiple suicide attempts.
“Suicide isn’t the solution to any problem.” That’s the view of Doctor Falmai, from Bury, who has previously had suicidal thoughts.
“I remember waking up feeling lucky to survive.” Caroline, 32 from Wigan, is a survivor of suicide.