Bag for Life

Be strong, they say. Man up, they say.

Look strong. Look after the family. Look forward to the future.

Look like we’ve got this life business in the bag.

But the truth is, we don’t all have this life business in the bag. In fact, for some of us, the bag’s a bit ripped. Actually, for some of us, there’s a huge hole in that bag and life is spilling out all over the place. What’s more, we’re really good at making do and mending that bag, scooping up the mess and stuffing it back inside. We’re so very good at it, that people might not notice the huge efforts we’re going to, to a) repeatedly stuff things back in the bag and b) to cover up what we’re doing. Eventually, that bag just seems beyond repair and everything comes tumbling and rumbling out:  keeping control of our life becomes too much and the whole thing seems impossible.

Life for too many of us became too much in 2021: in England and Wales, 5,224 people were registered as having taken their own lives. Suicides in England and Wales – Office for National Statistics (

I prefer not to say ‘suicide’ because the ‘cide’ bit, like in ‘homicide’ or ‘regicide’, has unhelpful, archaic connections with murder and the ‘sui’ bit means ‘oneself’ – as if it’s still a crime against oneself, when in fact, it is the last act of someone who believes there are no obvious other choices left available to them. That flimsy bag just could not hold their life together anymore.

And we may already know that ending one’s own life is the biggest cause of death in men under the age of 50. Indeed, around three quarters of people who take their own lives are men. It’s a dark and insidious pattern that has persisted since the mid 1990s.  Every single one of the stories of these people is a terrible tragedy. But let’s think about that again. Three quarters are men. Men. Men with partners, children, siblings, friends, stories, roles in society; men with bad jokes, favourite football teams, favourite pizzas, favourite jumpers, feelings, histories – and interrupted futures.

And even though we live in a world where traditional social and family roles are evolving, there is still a sense that men may feel that they cannot be weak (whatever ‘weak’ is), cannot show weakness, cannot speak out, cannot be seen to be losing control. In April 2022, the Health Secretary, Sajid Javid, who knows the utter desperation of losing a brother who ended his own life, ran a national consultation, inviting the public to contribute to a discussion around mental health and how to improve its services: tellingly, at one point, just 19% of respondents were male. Men urged to talk about mental health to prevent suicide – GOV.UK (

Whilst men, like any of us, will experience challenges in life, their response strategies may be different.

Men keep quiet. Men try and sort things themselves, rather than access support. Maybe because of the expectations of society. It’s worth noting that only 36% of referrals to talking therapies are for men. Men and mental health | Mental Health Foundation

But men may also give out little signs that things aren’t OK. Quieter than usual. Rattier than usual. More impulsive. More explosive. Or the other way: gone off food. Gone off sex. Gone off sport. Changes matter.

There is help. I’ll repeat that. There is help. Help that’s available to us all, whatever gender.

And that help is there for when things seem just a bit tricky early on. When the little rip starts to show in that bag.

It’s also there when things are tumbling out of that bag uncontrollably – but why wait until then?

September 10th marks World Suicide Prevention Day – led by The World Health Organisation, with their declaration of “Creating Hope through Action”.

If you are struggling with your mental wellbeing, or if you think someone else is struggling, please – seek help and seek it early.

Create hope through action.


Samaritan’s – World Suicide Prevention Day

World Health Organisation -World Suicide Prevention Day

Samaritans: 116 123

James’ Place: Text SHOUT to 85258

Papyrus: 0800 068 4141

CALM: 0800 58 58 58

If U Care Share: 0191 387 5661

Men’s Sheds: 0300 772 9626


Contact me to see how we can work together.