Mental health is always a complex, sensitive and contentious issue. After all, the human mind can still baffle any expert at any time with its complexity and uniqueness, its array of wonderful uses, its endless applications and dangers.
Mental health issues can sometimes be misunderstood, brushed off, or come under scorn by many. A certain stigma is often attached to conditions regarding mental health, and can make the experience even more difficult for those who are suffering. Thankfully, there are organisations out there striving to increase awareness and help for those suffering from mental health issues.
One such organisation is CALM. Founded in 2006, CALM stands for Campaign Against Living Miserably and chiefly focusses on the prevention of male suicides. A multi-award winning charity, CALM provides helplines and communities specifically geared towards helping men aged 20-49 in England and Wales with mental health issues. Figures released by the Office for National Statistics on 29th October 2014 show a shocking truth. These statistics show that suicide rates for males under 45 have hit a 15 year high, with a total of 4,020 suicides in England and Wales over the course of 2013. These shocking statistics are exactly what makes charities like CALM so important.
As an organisation CALM seeks to overcome what they feel is a cultural barrier that stops men from seeking help, ‘as they are expected to be in control at all times, and failure to be seen as such equates to weakness and a loss of masculinity.’ The charity’s fight to conquer such stereotypes and expectations is a worthy one, with various campaigns such as the #ManDown campaign launched on World Suicide Prevention Day on Merseyside having great success and raising significant awareness amongst the general public.
As part of it’s goals for the future, CALM looks for partnerships within music, entertainment, sports and comedy in order to unpin it’s excellent campaign. Support has already come from the world of music, from Kingston based artist Tim O T. As well as detoxing for a month for the purpose of fundraising, on the 1st November Tim held a charity gig at The Cricketers, Kingston-Upon-Thames in aid of CALM which I was lucky enough to attend. Also performing that evening were Jack Warren, Kevin Moth and Nick Markham, all giving outstanding performances in the small upstairs area of The Cricketers in the midst of a friendly, intimate atmosphere. All artists radiated energy, passion and enjoyment as they performed, in particular Jack Warren who bounced from heal to toe the entire time. Tim O T, the organiser of this charming event took the stage last, and having seen Tim perform a few times over the past year I think that this was definitely one of his finer appearances. Now joined by Jamie Gray on keyboard, Tim went through songs old, new, and covers to make a brilliant performance, one well worthy of supporting such a great cause. As well as being a charity gig, Tim’s performance was also recorded for a live EP to be released soon, and I would urge everyone to give it a listen.
Tim was kind enough to give me a few words on why he supports CALM, and why raising money for this cause is important to him. On the subject, he praised CALM for having "a rare cordial approach to raising awareness around mental health issues", and went further into his personal reasons for supporting the cause.
Without going into too much detail, I've been battling with various mental health issues most of my adult life. And for a long time I decided to cover it up with an arrogant front, which really didn't do me any favours. When I found CALM, I realised I was far from alone, which straight away lifted a massive burden off my shoulders.’ Tim’s experience epitomises what CALM is all about. Providing men with a place where they can finally feel comfortable enough to talk about their issues, and stop hiding them from everyone in order to seem ‘manly’ or in control.
Tim went on to further talk of his experience with CALM, and hopes for societies future in regards to mental health, ‘When I speak to CALM, it almost feels like I'm talking my best friend, who also happens to be a trained therapist. Which is rare. Very rare. Speaking about your mental health problems is not a sign of weakness. And I hope one day society will approach a discussion on mental health, without a sense of taboo and with a much deeper and open minded attitude.’
So far the figure raised as a result of Tim’s detox month and the gig is £194.70, and still counting! Hopefully there will be a definite figure to follow soon.
I find it greatly admirable that Tim has taken the time to put back into the organisation that seems to have helped him so much. This is exactly the kind of support that CALM needs in order to carry on providing an outlet for men aged 20-49 in the face of societies pressures and stereotypes, and hopefully others like Tim will come out and give their support also.
Below is Tim’s response in full.
CALM have a rare cordial approach to raising awareness around mental health issues. Suicide is the biggest killer amongst men under 50, and yet society still tells then to "man up" and "snap out of it". Which might be why many people feel like they cant speak about depression or anxiety or whatever it might be. And feeling like you can't speak about it, tends to make you feel trapped. And that's when things get nasty. Without going into too much detail, I've been battling with various mental health issues most of my adult life. And for a long time I decided to cover it up with an arrogant front, which really didn't do me any favours. When I found CALM, I realised I was far from alone, which straight away lifted a massive burden off my shoulders. When I speak to CALM, it almost feels like I'm talking my best friend, who also happens to be a trained therapist. Which is rare. Very rare. Speaking about your mental health problems is not a sign of weakness. And I hope one day society will approach a discussion on mental health, without a sense of taboo and with a much deeper and open minded attitude.’