I Don’t Wanna Talk About It

Male suicide is the second biggest killer of young men in this country, yet the problem remains largely ignored. When you think that we’re often brought up to believe that boys don’t cry, perhaps it’s not that much of a surprise that so few people feel able to talk about how they’re feeling.

In an attempt to understand this problem more deeply and to see if more can be done to raise awareness of the issue, I’ve agreed to spend some pro bono time with the Campaign Against Living Miserably (or CALM for short), a charity established to help reduce the high suicide rate among young men.

CALM are particularly interested to learn more about how they can use social media to campaign more effectively on behalf of the people who need their services, and don’t yet know they exist. And this is where you come in. I thought it would be interesting and useful to throw open the question, ‘how can we use the social sphere as a means of raising awareness of male suicide?’ to you too.

I’m visiting the CALM offices this Friday – it would be great to have some thoughts and ideas from you that we could play around with by then. Please speak up, I’m looking forward to hearing from you. And if you’d rather contact me privately feel free to use the contact us page of this website.

Author: Doug Shaw

Artist and Consultant. Embracing uncertainty, sketching myself into existence. Helping people do things differently, through an artistic lens.

12 thoughts on “I Don’t Wanna Talk About It”

  1. Such an important issue and one that is very close to my heart. In January, it will be 11 years since my husband’s brother took his own life, at the age of 30. It was the most enormous shock – it wasn’t his first attempt, but it was the first one that we had known of.

    As you will imagine, the consequences of this never end really, although time helps to heal the rawness of the pain and loss for those closest to him. It breaks my heart that I have to explain to my daughters in a way that they can understand why they have an uncle that they will never see or know. We still miss him and we always will. I honestly think he believed that we would be better off without him and that breaks my heart for him too.

    What can be done? I’m not sure, but if you identify anything through your work with CALM, I would love to help you with this. What I do know is that my brother-in-law felt able to email anonymously to the Samaritans and articulate his feelings in a way that he was never able to anyone else during his lifetime, so perhaps there is indeed something that social media can help achieve here. There is also an organisation called Survivors of Bereavement by Suicide, which may be a useful contact point.

    Good luck Doug and thanks for posting this.

  2. Doug,

    Well done for asking. In writing your piece it’s clear that this is a hard conversation to have. Even talking about talking about it is difficult.

    I’ll drop you some thoughts by e-mail.


  3. Hey Doug,

    A couple of thoughts come to mind. The first is that we (you, me, and many others in the #connectinghr crew) use social media for purposes of connection and building relationships. That starts to prompt thoughts on how it can be used to engage with young men who want a safe place to talk online, or find information anonymously. It also prompts thoughts on ensuring you have a good strong social presence.

    The second is that if they want to raise awareness in the general public, there are a good many digital agencies who can and will do this work at a fraction of their normal day rates. Awareness campaigns are vital for charities, and there are some great examples of where this has been done really well in the social sphere for a number of charities in the UK. This does involve investment of money, so that is something to consider.

    A final thought is that there will be people naturally drawn to want to help make a difference and have good networks and connections in the social space. I’ve seen a number of people on Twitter in particular who will ‘donate a tweet’ so that a charity can send messages from that person regularly so that others become aware.

    Hope this is useful in helping your conversation with them.


  4. Just a quick note to thank you guys for being in touch. I appreciate it and your comments plus those coming in from other places too will doubtless help us have a useful and enjoyable time together on Friday. I look forward to letting you know how we get on.

  5. I’m late to the game….again. But better late than never. A few points in random order.

    I’m astonished at the acceptance of male objectification in this country. I don’t want to get into a gender argument at all so let me be clear – no objectification is appropriate at all. But somehow we seem to have a higher tolerance for male objectification. Take the half naked male models often seen around Abercrombie and Fitch. If these were females, the stores would probably be set on fire. Add to this the semi naked photos of celebrities that often adorn the Facebook pages of females of all ages….again would you or I ever consider putting a photo of a bikini clad female on social media? Young boys grow up with a pretty screwed message that unless you’re “ripped”….you’re not attractive.

    Sport. For a lot of young men, excelling in sport is a means to acceptance. If you’re not on the first team then you’re nothing. But of course, everyone can’t be on the first team. Some kids are good at sport and some kids are good at other things, but the value system of the community for a lot of young men rates sport above anything else.

    The negativity of social networks. I’m constantly astonished by the negativity displayed towards one another on social networks by a younger demographic….ok I know that makes me sound ancient. But whereas I would never think of making a critical comment about someone’s photo on Facebook or write something offensive on their timeline, I see it happen on a day in day out basis amongst friends and connections. Social for many is not a positive, reinforcing community.

    Finally, the thing that makes boys different to girls is their ability to express how they are feeling in a safe environment. And of course, if you combine this with the point above, I think the challenge is even greater. Boys who have female friends are – in my experience – a lot more developed in this area.

    I don’t know if any of that helps, but I wish you luck and if I can do anything then please let me know.

    1. No such thing as late on this one – thanks Neil. All good stuff for us to throw into the mix I’m sure the good people at CALM will appreciate your thoughts, I do.

      Cheers – D

  6. +1 for all the comments here.

    On a practical note I’m aware of a few initiatives here in Australia that strike me as positive steps in providing a safe space for men to tell someone they’re not coping and may be considering self-harm.

    The first is RUOK Day (http://www.ruokday.com/) where all people are encouraged to ask someone they know if they’re really okay. It gets plenty of media coverage, has great brand awareness and as a slogan it’s recognizable enough to have taken on a life of its own.

    The second is a charity called BeyondBlue (http://www.beyondblue.org.au/). They’ve been involved in all sorts of work trying to address the stigma of mental health issues.

    Finally the Men’s Shed movement (http://www.mensshed.org/). The target audience are older men but the formal/informal structure is something that seems to have a really positive effect on attendees and I wonder if it’s something that could be copied, albeit in an modified fashion, for younger men?

    Anyway, just a few thoughts. It’s a serious issue and it’s great to hear that you’re getting involved.


    1. Hey Meejah – thanks for coming by. This stuff looks v helpful ta – we’ll throw it all in the mix and keep you posted via the blog.

      Love – Snoop

  7. Some great ideas here. A close family friend committed suicide nearly 20 years ago so I’ve experienced someone very close in the depths of depression.I don’t know whether she was typical but in her darker moments communication would shut down so I guess having as many communication channels open for help as possible and raising awareness. I guess the upside of social media taking off means that a) you can reach a huge audience cheaply and b) TV advertising rates are more affordable.
    Everybody hurts, sometime – perhaps a cover version by Doug Shaw? Music is a great communication tool.

  8. Now I am very late to this party, but it strikes me that technology and social media could help. Part of me is reminded of the friending bench at my daughter’s primary school, where anyone who was lonely or feeling left out could go sit as a sign that they were feeling that way. The staff then encouraged others to go join them and make friends. Now this was all in a safe controlled environment, but I suspect the clever techy guys could do something.

    Part of me would like to say that those prepared to help could wear a “friends” ribbon that would mean they could be approached and trusted. However in this paranoid and conspiracy-ridden world I can see the immediate reposte that a predator could masquerade and prey on the vulnerable.

    I wonder if there could be a free “friendme” beacon that could be made into smart phone app. when the red button was hit it would send a message with some location info that could be picked up by accreditted workers who could respond electronically or, if nearby, personally.

    it is so much easier to talk to a stranger and even more an anonymous stranger….so connecting supply with demand would seem to be the secret.

    Not sure what you think?

    1. Thanks Ian – I will pass your thoughts on to CALM – and if I get any feedback I will let you know.

      Cheers, appreciate you being in touch.

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