Time to Change Wales Champion, Mark revisits his past and talks about how his sexuality and home life almost led him to take his own life.
Mark, 49 from Carmarthenshire, initially grew up in South Yorkshire where he had to juggle working as a student nurse, caring for his younger sister after their father left, and hiding his sexuality from his friends and family due to fear of stigma and abuse. He explains, “When I was a student nurse, I used to date women, even though I was a gay man, just to fit in. You must understand that, living in South Yorkshire during the 70’s and 80’s, my family would have completely disowned me, so I followed the ‘norm’ of my male friends and relatives.
In the late 90’s, I met my now ex-wife, had two beautiful daughters, only to be followed by divorce in the summer of 2005. By this time, I was really struggling with my true identity and mental health.”
Fast forward to April 2016, Mark’s mental health took a dark turn. He said, “My eldest daughter had left home the previous Christmas – Boxing Day at 9.30am to be precise – after being told quite bluntly that her dad was a gay. I have had no contact with her since that day.
It was a few months later after a suicide attempt, four policemen bundled me into a mental health crisis team vehicle. I was then taken to a local hospital where a very nice clinical psychologist diagnosed me with clinical depression. I can’t begin to tell you how relieved I felt that I wasn’t “going daft” as my late grandmother would say.
Since then, I’ve had two more suicide attempts, the most recent one on July 2, 2019. People who contemplate suicide never forget the date of the attempt. Feeling suicidal is like being in a very small rowing boat in the middle of a large ocean. At the time of feeling alone and suicidal, all I wanted was for someone to say, ‘how are you?’. That’s all it takes – 3 simple words.”
According to a Samaritans report, each year, between 300 and 350 people die by suicide in Wales, which is around three times the number killed in road accidents. It is the most common cause of death for men aged 20-49 and the leading cause of death for people under 35.
Preventing suicide can involve speaking out about your mental health and seeking help if you’re having suicidal thoughts, and Time to Change Wales’ role is to end the stigma and discrimination surrounding mental health.
Lowri Wyn Jones, Time to Change Wales Programme Manager said: “Mark’s powerful story demonstrates the critical need for early intervention to preventing suicide. Suicide is not a mental health problem in itself, but it is linked to mental distress. Just simply checking in on someone and asking, ‘how are you?’ can be the first step in saving someone’s life.
It takes members of society such as family, friends, colleagues and community members to come together and support each other through times of crisis. It’s time to change our attitude and behaviour towards mental health in society and save more people from dying by suicide.”
The stigma and discrimination surrounding mental health conditions can leave people feeling ashamed to speak honestly about their feelings and thus preventing them from seeking the help they need. Don’t suffer in silence – it is OK to talk about it.
Need help? If you are experiencing mental health problems or need urgent support, click here.
The Time to Change Wales website is packed with information and advice about mental health. Visit timetochangewales.org.uk and follow the campaign on Twitter, Facebook and Instagram.