Service user urges men to speak up this Suicide Prevention Day

Date: 10 September 2017

Rob Smale cycle image

As part of World Suicide Prevention Day on 10 September 2017, 51 year-old service user Rob Smale shares how important it is for men to talk about their mental health and seek help when in crisis.

Statistics show that men are three times more likely than women to die by suicide. Recently middle-aged men have become the age group that are at highest risk and more likely to take their own life.

Speaking out, Rob said: “I would encourage every man to speak up and say something if they have concerns about their mental health. Talking can save so many lives. I reached out to the trust’s Crisis Team and they helped me. I was introduced to the Job Taster Programme and I am now embracing my lived experience to help support the trust and others in a similar situation.”

Whilst he was growing up Rob had a particularly challenging childhood. He would find it difficult to make friends at school, often feeling lonely and unimportant that even the school bully wouldn’t be interested in bullying him. He felt invisible.

In his teenage years, he struggled with numerous episodes of depression, but like many teenage boys he found it difficult to talk openly about how he was feeling, which was made even more difficult growing up with two sisters, who were open about their feelings.

After being hospitalised and waking from a coma caused by Encephalitis (an inflammation or swelling of the brain) his mental health deteriorated further. Rob said: “It was like being like someone else, I experienced extreme mood swings, anger and felt frustrated at not being able to do the things he was used to. Whilst at school I was learning French, German and English at school, but after waking up from the coma I suffered memory loss and could only remember English.” Reading became more difficult and he was diagnosed with mild dyslexia. Rob found it difficult to make any future plans such as going to university as he frequently wouldn’t know how he would feel the following week.  

After a number of suicide attempts, he moved to Africa and began working in casinos. Rob began using drugs to self-medicate his depression and became a functioning drug addict. In his words “he worked hard and played hard” and started using drugs to “fit in” and feel less isolated.

Rob sought help and was treated by a psychiatrist for six months. He stopped taking drugs and focused on work, but once again found himself battling against feelings of loneliness. He had been in and out of therapy for a number of years in attempts to tackle his mental illness. Things eventually started to look up; he got married, had his own business and felt he had some control of his life. Sadly, this was not to last, his relationship ended and the loss of his business followed. He returned to the UK but his mental health worsened.

In need of professional help, Rob contacted the trust’s Crisis Team as he didn’t know where else to turn. Once Rob’s care coordinator began to feel he could take the next step, he was offered the opportunity of taking part in the Job Taster Programme which provides service users with a great opportunity to gain real work experience helping them to get back into the workplace.

During his 12 week placement he was involved in a number of projects. He said: “The trust has fully embraced me; they wanted me to come back as an external facilitator so I can use my lived experience to make a difference.”

Rob is now working in a paid post as project worker alongside Nikki Oatham, Trust Professional and Strategic Lead for Psychological Practice on suicide prevention workshops. These workshops are for senior clinical staff and aim to improve how the trust supports service users as they move through their care pathway and to help reduce the number of suicides in Kent and Medway.

According to the Kent Public Health Observatory suicide is the leading killer of men under 45 in Kent. Kent County Council (KCC) launched their ‘Release the Pressure’ suicide prevention social marketing campaign aimed at encouraging men who are struggling to cope with life to call a free phone helpline with trained staff available 24 hours a day 7 days a week. The campaign is based on research that problems such as debt, relationship breakdown, stress and feeling of hopelessness, guilt and anger can cause immense pressure amongst men.  

If you know anyone who is feeling the pressure, they can contact the free phone helpline on 0800 107 0160. This is provided by Mental Health Matters.

For more information and to read about other men whose lives have been turned around after they found the courage to speak about their problems, please

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    Service user Rob Smale urges men to speak up and seek help on this World Suicide Prevention Day.
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