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World Suicide Prevention Day: a social worker's poem

With male suicide at a two-decade high and accounting for three-quarters of all those taking their life in England and Wales, social work student Ashleigh Gonera wrote the following poem to highlight the issue

'I am a man'

I stare into space, shattered windows, all alone, dark and barren, no hope, all is lost. I had it all, how did I lose it? How could I be so foolish?

How can this be, I am a man, the man of the house, the leader, they all look u to me, how can this be?

I have tried the Internet, not gotten far, I would rather talk to someone, but how can I, I'm a man,

In my head, I hear, man up, you are a man, talking is for the weak, 

It has all got too much for me, dark, all alone, bingeing, drug taking, alcohol abuse suits me, after all I’m a man, 

A relative raises alarm to the professionals. Why? I’m a man. Is this not what is expected of us?

 The offers of help come through but I cannot take them, I’m a man,

 I’m told to go out there to get help at some support group, which will not work because I’m a man. This will be a sign of weakness right? 

Also how can I even approach these people, they will judge me, a man who can’t cope,

After persuasion I gather courage to go, relentless voices in my heard, still loud, you are a failure, maybe you are better off dead, men can do better! 

After what seems like infinite bus rides and getting lost along the way, I get there and in front of me is a big brown door, how do I open it, my heart's pounding? Will it make a loud creak? Perhaps I should turn back and go home, that’s what I do best, I am a man.

A smartly dressed woman sees me through the window and coaxes me in. Will she get me? I am a man. Does she know about men’s problems? Do I wait to find out or be a man and leave? 

I get in and I am given forms to complete. Really? I am a man. This won’t work.

I’m ushered to a room full of other men of all ages and colours, to talk it out. Really? We are men, we don’t do talking, we keep it inside.

I storm out, straight back to what I know best, being a man. On the way home, its all foggy, confusing and the voices are getting louder, perhaps, I am a loser and I am better off dead indeed! I scream in anguish, they arrest me for aggression. Why? Isn’t this what society says men do?

Men’s mental ill health is real and we need help too, to access services, to talk, to be listened to and to be allowed to be mentally healthy men, not just men.

The above poem shows the plight of a man who is having mental ill health and does not know how to get help. Even when help is offered, at times it does not seem appropriate to his needs and it feels like there are barriers preventing him from accessing help. Dealing with professionals is daunting and he feels it will not help so he is stuck in a rut.

Ashleigh Gonera is a Step Up To social work student at The University of Bedfordshire

This article is published by Professional Social work magazine which provides a platform for a range of perspectives across the social work sector. It does not necessarily reflect the views of the British Association of Social Workers.