check-in with a mate

The last couple of years have brought about new awareness to the topic of depression and loneliness. COVID lockdowns left many feeling isolated, with some being away from friends and family for extended periods of time, never mind those who lost jobs and loved ones during the process.

It’s important to remember, however, that depression, loneliness, and even feelings of hopelessness aren’t isolated to recent events. Debt, grief, not seeing family, relationship breakdowns, and leaving the armed services are all prevalent reasons for individuals to suffer from feelings of isolation that can lead to suicide.

You might be surprised to learn that one of the most unrecognised populations of those suffering from such feelings are men. In fact, less than 1 in 4 men who have high levels of stress are willing to discuss it with friends or a family member.

Furthermore, suicide is the leading cause of death for men under 50 in the UK. In fact, ¾ of suicides in West Yorkshire are men. Suicide is more common in West Yorkshire than in England as a whole. In 2020 there were 235 deaths registered by coroners as suicide; that’s more than four a week.

It’s important to know the indicators of depression that can lead to suicide, including: drinking a lot; going quiet and changes in personality; more stress than usual; seeming off your game if playing sports; not going out as much; and generally not being yourself.

If you notice any of these in things happening to a mate, or simply want to be sure you’re there for the people you care about, there are three easy steps you can take to help:

Reach out. Think of a mate you haven’t spoken to in a while and call or message them.

Check-in. Talk to your mate; ask them what’s new and how they’ve been feeling.

Follow up. Keep in touch. If your mate has been feeling down, get them to take a look at the resources available on Check-In with Your Mate

I can personally say that the majority of my Army mates struggled upon leaving the armed forces. It’s a challenge to enter mainstream society after spending so many years in a regimented environment.

left service

People find they’ve lost the same sense of camaraderie and friendship they’ve had for decades, and it’s a genuine challenge to figure out how to make friends, find a job, and just generally get on in life with no parameters for them to follow.

I consider myself fortunate that, while it took me a while to adjust after nearly two decades in the Army, I had the right people around me and never felt too lonely. Family, friends, and proper training to ensure I wasn’t out of work for too long all helped. I also found a hobby that not only reinvigorated me, but also helped me make new mates with similar interests.

paul and paul

My friend Paul is one of those people. We don’t have a schedule for checking in with one another or getting together, but we do reach out, check-in, and follow up on a regular basis.

Whether it’s a quick phone call, making plans to go on a walk, or taking on greater adventures together, these activities give us time to casually catch up and do something that is mentally and physically stimulating. 

walking with paul

Research shows that physical activity, such as walking, can help our emotional wellbeing. When we exercise, endorphins are released by our brains, increasing feelings of pleasure and decreasing those of pain and discomfort.

If you’re looking for a simple wellbeing walk to get you started, you might check out a canal walk out from Leeds, or get out in the fresh air away from it all on Ilkley Moor.

No matter what your passion, be it the outdoors, sport, or dining out, these are all great ways to make new friends and find a way to stay grounded.
The West Yorkshire Health and Care Partnership have launched a new campaign to help, as well. Check-in With Your Mate provides resources to help those who may have friends who are struggling. Check out their site, share your experiences, and remember to check-in with your mates, as well.

References:

  • ONS data shows that there were 235 deaths registered as suicides in West Yorkshire in 2020, down from 277 in 2019. 
  • All regions’ death counts went down in 2020 from 2019. 235/52 = 4.51 – with an average of 4.5 people per week where coroners were registering suicide deaths in West Yorkshire in 2020.
  • Rates are more of a useful indicator of what is going on though, as they give trends – the ONS data shows West Yorkshire’s rate for 2018-2020 is 12.6 per 100,000. The England rate is 10.4 for the same period.

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