Samaritans campaign tackles male suicide
Welsh International Rugby Union referee Nigel Owens today urged men to talk about their problems as he helped launch a campaign against suicide amongst men.
The 39-year-old star who came out publicly as gay three years ago, said he had been lucky to have had a "second chance" after attempting suicide by taking an overdose in his 20s.
He urged men to "pick up the phone" and speak about their problems - no matter how small - as he backed the Samaritans Men on the Ropes campaign.
"I was lucky enough to get a second chance and realise that I had a problem and how much it helped when I did speak to people about it," he said.
"My advice is no matter how small you think your problem is, speak to somebody about it."
Owens, who revealed his life story in his autobiography Half Time, suffered from bulimia and depression after realising he was gay when he was 19 years old.
He fell into a coma after attempting suicide aged 26.
"I woke up in hospital, my parents were crying and all my friends were there. 'My God, what have I done?' were the first thoughts to cross my mind," he said.
"I needed to accept who I was and once I did that I could get on with things."
The star joined a launch at Waterloo station in London for the campaign aimed at reducing the toll of more than 4,000 male suicides a year in the UK.
The campaign, targeted at working class men in their 30s, 40s and 50s also aims to cut suicides on the railways and has the backing of Network Rail.
Samaritans said their own research had shown that most men from these backgrounds said they do not discuss their emotions with friends or colleagues because that would be seen as "weak".
The Waterloo launch of the campaign included a mocked up boxing ring. Also present was former Premier League footballer Warren Aspinall, 43, who was born in Wigan but now lives in Southampton.
He described how he had stood on a railway track waiting for a train to come and only jumping out of the way "at the last second" after suffering big gambling losses.
He said he was backing the Samaritans campaign to save lives because he knew just how close his own life had come to being ended.
"Just pick up the phone and speak to somebody, speak to your wife or your loved one because that is what helped me," he said.
"There is a macho culture amongst men and no-one wants to be seen as weak, but you need to talk about your problems by picking up the phone," he said.
According to Samaritans, men are three times more likely to take their own lives than women.
Rachel Kirby-Rider, Samaritans director of communications, said: "We believe that many men don't feel able to talk about their feelings and, instead, either bottle them up or let them spiral out of control, sometimes with tragic consequences.
"The main aim of the campaign therefore is to make calling Samaritans' 24/7 confidential helpline an option for them.
"Equally we believe that talking to anyone - family, friends, colleagues, health professionals - is better than suffering in silence and we hope that the campaign will also help men feel that they are able to express their emotions in today's society."
Martin Gallagher, head of community safety for Network Rail, said: "Every year there are too many suicides on the railway.
"Every one of these is a tragedy. As a responsible company Network Rail will do what it can to reduce this tragic toll.
"That is why we have entered into this important partnership with Samaritans. Their expertise and insight will help us together train our people in managing this sensitive and vital issue."
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