VIDEO: Text service gives suicidal men a voice

More men are opening up about their mental health problems than before thanks to a text service operated by suicide prevention charity Console, which is being hailed as a “breakthrough” in suicide prevention.

Traditionally, the organisation has seen more women than men getting in contact — 61% of all calls to their helpline are from females.

Now, with the implementation of a new text service, those figures have been reversed — 62% of those contacting the organisation through text are men.

“We’ve over 500 people dying annually in Ireland through suicide, and most of them are young men,” said Console CEO Paul Kelly. So we weren’t reaching our audience. We decided to do something with social media and we introduced our texting service which was to text Help to 51444 and it was extraordinary, it all shifted around. We got 62% of young men texting the service.

VIDEO: Text service gives suicidal men a voice

Paul Kelly: Men are four times more likely to die by suicide.

“They may not talk but we have found that they will text. And, in that way, we are meeting them where they are, not where we think they should be.”

The organisation said men are four times more likely to take their own lives than their female counterparts and until now no organisation has been able to convince young men who may be experiencing suicidal thoughts to open up.

This year, Console has seen a 49% increase in the overall amount of texts they are receiving. Almost 4,000 people texted the service during the first half of this year, compared to 2,617 for the same period last year.

Musician, television personality, and mental health campaigner Niall Breslin, also known as Bressie, praised the initiative.

“Some men just don’t have the language,” he said. “The fact is they might have been brought up in houses where emotion wasn’t on the agenda and people didn’t want to address it.

“And men have this silly macho belief system that has just been bred into us and the reality is some of the toughest, most inspiring, intellectual men I know are people who deal with mental health issues.

“Men are starting to now see there are things you can do, there really are things you can do. This isn’t something you can do on your own, that’s a fact. You cannot do this on your own.”

Bressie, who has released a book about his struggles with mental health issues called Me and My Mate Jeffrey, said the family and friends of those experiencing difficulties are also affected.

“I’ve been doing book signings all over the country the past two weeks and what’s really sad is I’ve had wives coming into me saying ‘My husband’s out in the car, it’s for him, he can’t come in, he’s not ready’,” he said. “And I can see how much it’s affecting her as well. So this isn’t just about the person, it’s about the family and friends too.”

“Everybody feels pain; men, women, all ages, all genders, all demographics, all backgrounds. Pain is pain. That’s something I try to speak about as much as possible.”

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