Every year more than 5,000 people in the UK take their own lives and 22% of them are men aged 16-24. Shockingly, suicide is the largest cause of death amongst young men in the UK.
We caught up with a team of four men, Harry Wentworth-Stanley, Rory Buchanan, Sam Greenly and Toby Fenwicke-Clennell, who are taking on the challenge of a lifetime this December 2016 in order to raise awareness around the issues of male suicide and depression. Harry Wentworth-Stanley lost his brother James to suicide at the tender age of 21. James was an outgoing and popular university student, and none of his family or friends had any idea of his mental suffering following a minor operation a few days earlier.
The team, all of whom have been individually affected by mental health, has identified four reasons why men in particular find it difficult to talk about issues that may be affecting them or their loved ones:
1. Masculinity – the stereotypical man is expected to “man up” to any challenges they may face, and worries about how others will view him if he doesn’t approach things in a “manly” way
2. Emotions – emotional outpourings are seen as inherently feminine and, therefore, some men find it difficult to express how they truly feel about issues that concern them.
3. Control – men like to be viewed as being in control of their relationships, careers, emotions etc. There is a perception that if men talk about things that might bother or upset them, they appear less in control than the stereotypical strong and confident man.
4. Seeking help – therapy isn’t currently mainstream in the UK like it is in the US, and is often stigmatised. The idea that a man might wish to seek help from others can be incompatible with society’s ideal image of a man. Whilst some men might be able to speak with friends or family, the availability of crisis centres in the UK is key for providing people with the option to speak openly about their fears and concerns.
Ten years after James’ death, Harry has chosen to mark the anniversary by competing in the Talisker Whisky Atlantic Challenge (December 2016) and rowing 3,000 miles across the Atlantic Ocean. Harry says “If James were still alive he would have been top of my list of people to row an ocean with. He had an amazing thirst for adventure and would always push himself to new limits – rowing the Atlantic has his name written all over it!”
Row For James is aiming to raise in excess of £300,000 for the James Wentworth-Stanley Memorial Foundation (JWSMF), which aims to tackle the issues of anxiety, depression and suicide. All money raised will be put towards "James’ Place", an initiative set up by the foundation, which will be the first in a series of non-clinical crisis centres for those at high risk of suicide.
Harry says “In the weeks and months before James died I had no idea that, behind his cheery grin, he was hurting. I also had no idea that suicide is the biggest killer of young men in this country. James is my inspiration for taking on this challenge – both to do him proud and to raise money in his name to help prevent others from suicide. When times are tough during our crossing he will inspire me to push on and keep going.”
For more information and if you would like to support Row for James go here.