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‘Lost’ men are taking own lives

Exhibition to explore work of centre that supports those contemplating suicide

02 July, 2018

Daniel Regan

THE high rate of male suicides may be connected to changing attitudes toward masculinity, according to a survivor.

Daniel Regan, who is creative director of an art space in Kentish Town Health Centre, said some men are feeling “lost” as they grapple with a “new emotional intelligence”.

He is curating an exhibition, called I Want to Live, which looks at the impact of suicide and the work of volunteers at the Maytree respite centre in Finsbury Park.

Mr Regan said: “I think there is a changing attitude to what masculinity is – the old idea that the man is supposed to be the sole bread-winner. Those roles are changing slightly. I think maybe men are feeling lost. They have been told you have to be strong and masculine. But of course men are just as emotional as anyone else, it’s just they have not had the capacity and space to be vulnerable.”

He added: “We’re going from men being told they are strong and cannot cry, to a new emotional intelligence. They are addressing a new concept of masculinity. This is creating a new discussion and discourse. We need better education in schools so that children are brought up to think about emotions.”

At the Maytree, volunteers email, telephone and speak in person with people who feel like there is no way out. It also offers a one-off stay of four nights and a “befriending” service.

Mr Regan, who started working on the project two years ago, said: “There are many circumstance of a suicidal crisis – it can be a breakdown of a relationship, finances, housing. It can be a series of downfalls that lead you into a particular place.”

He added: “Sometimes people are so overwhelmed and overloaded they are not thinking clearly about how to solve their own problems. The thing is, talk more and more. When people’s thoughts start to unravel, they can start to see things differently. A lot of people, while researching how to kill themselves, have come across the Maytree. The internet gets blamed a lot of the time, but it is also an opportunity for people to find help. It’s an interesting flip on the narrative.”

Talking about his own crisis, he said: “In my teens I had mental health difficulties. I had traumatic incidents from my childhood and I was not understanding how to piece things together emotionally. I was really unwell and not coping, and didn’t understand what was happening to me. I was just 19 and I went off to do my degree and I wasn’t able to access clinical support. I voluntarily went to the hospital. I was in there for 10 days. I was trying to rebalance myself. I didn’t tell anybody. People would ask me, how was your summer? And I would tell them it was fine.”

He added: “I tried to kill myself, and I was in hospital again. I had a lot of extensive psychotherapy and for a while I was really positive. “I did a masters in photography and that was a big turning point for me. I was able to look at how to use photography to navigate complex issues. And I could start to be more open, feel more liberated. I can now see that the things that happened to me were because of things that have happened to me in my life.”

Mr Regan said he had come to learn not to “shy away” from difficult issues because they might trigger a reaction. He said he did not believe suicide was a “selfish act” and that society needs to understand that people do it because they “are living in extraordinary pain”.

He said: “A lot of the time people don’t want to die, but they are not sure how to live. You are able to be suicidal without having to make a plan. The important thing is to talk to people when you are in that phase.”

The I Want to Live exhibition at the health centre includes a series of workshops on suicide and bereavement. To find out about the Maytree call 020 72637070 or visit http://www.maytree.org. uk/

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