A just under a year ago, we were heading up the M1 to Yorkshire for the funeral of one of my best friends 19 year old daughter. She had sadly taken her own life. It was a devastating event, one which life had not prepared me for. The pain, heartache and sense of hopelessness felt by everyone was beyond anything I could imagine. I didn't know what to say to my friends when we saw them. I felt a mixture of pain, guilt, sorrow and embarrassment at my total inadequacy faced with the situation. I had to be there, yet felt I could do absolutely nothing to help them. I even didn't know what to say to my own children who had grown up with her. I had hoped that it would be a unique life event. Tragically, I was wrong. Since that sad day, my daughter has lost three of her group of friends to suicide. Last week, the drummer in my band, one of my best friends for the last 40 years, buried his own son. His son left behind a son of his own, who will now grow up without a father. In a pandemic, we can't even offer the support we want, go to the pub, have the beers, give someone a hug. I feel helpless, impotent and useless in the face of these challenges.
But this is too important to simply sit back and do nothing. I've struggled to face up to how I could show support, what I could do. How I could show that I care. So I did the only two things I could think of . First of all I wrote this blog and recorded this video. Please watch this before reading on.
I wanted to make sure that I got the message out to as many people as I can, that if you need support and are contemplating taking your own life or know someone who you think might be, the Samaritans are there and can offer practical support. If you don't know what to do, how to approach someone, what to say, call them don't worry. This is why they exist. The British have an aversion to "wasting people's time", but when an organisation exists solely to help people who have such issues, no call is ever a waste of time.
The second thing I could do was a gesture of solidarity. I thought long and hard about this. On Saturday morning I took the plunge and shaved my head. There are three reasons I did this particular act. The first is that you can't fail to notice it. It is a talking point. The second is that Graham, our drummer has a similar lack of hair and I felt it was a good way of showing solidarity with him. The third is that it is clearly a mistake (I look like a cross between Fester and Shaun Ryder) and it has caused much myrth amongst all who have seen it. I did not share my reasons for shaving my head until now. I thought that by inviting a bit of sniggering and then explaining, it might make people stop, pause for thought and think. People do many things we don't understand. Sometimes we judge them, laugh at them, tease them, without the slightest idea of why they have done something we might think stupid, laughable, idiotic. Sometimes though, they have a reason we were unaware of, something unfathomable. I was hoping that my loss of hair and my explanation may well spur a realisation that there sometimes is more going on. My hair will grow back, unlike suicide it is something that will be forgotten in a matter of weeks, leaving no trace. For families coping with suicide, birthdays, Xmas, all manner of other previosly joyous events come back as reminders.
The bottom line with this is that the five people I mentioned are five too many. Suicide has taken more people that our family know than covid in the last year. One thing Graham, our drummer told me, which I wanted to pass on. If you think that someone is about to harm themselves imminently, call 999.
I will just reiterate one more time that if you need help it is there contact The Samaritans.