Protempore …

Posted by to The Blog on June 16th

I’m drawn to negatives in life, and I dwell on them, and they consume me.”

You will, I’m sure, be very glad to hear that the column for this issue is not about politics. You may not be quite so glad to hear that this time round it’s going to focus on what is becoming, alarmingly, a slow-moving, silent epidemic – male suicide.

This topic was going to appear in the magazine last year following the death of Frightened Rabbit frontman Scott Hutchison. Frightened Rabbit was a nickname given to Scott by his mum, as he was such an anxious child.  

The reason it didn’t appear then is because I just didn’t know what to say. The news of his death made me feel sad, but I didn’t know Scott personally. I knew what he looked like and I had listened to his music in which he had addressed some of the mental health difficulties that periodically made every day the middle of a dark night for him. In an interview published shortly before his death, he described his mood:

“Middling. On a day-to-day basis, I’m a solid six out of 10. I don’t know how often I can hope for much more than that. I’m drawn to negatives in life, and I dwell on them, and they consume me.”

They consume me. That short phrase hit me like a punch in the stomach. What was it that kept those demons at bay for me but could quite easily haunt another living soul to the point that death is no longer a terrifying prospect but a blessed release? The short answer is that nobody knows.

Concerning gender and suicide, male rates are higher than female suicide rates, and one possible reason for this is that men are less likely to ask for help or express depressive or suicidal feelings. But Scott Hutchison did express his feelings. He didn’t wear his heart on his sleeve, he wrenched it out of himself and held it up for everyone to see. 

Listening to his voice pulling lyrics up from the depths of his hurt gave you the feeling that here was a young man clinging on to life with every ounce of his strength but maybe, just maybe, losing his grip. One of his songs was titled Floating in the Forth.      

In the UK, suicide is the highest cause of death among men under the age of 45. In fact, the highest suicide rate in the UK is recorded for men aged 40–44. Suicide is an extremely complex behaviour with a long list of risk factors. Some of these will be obvious; mental health problems, social isolation, substance abuse, recent bereavement, and failed relationships. 

It’s been suggested that a lower suicide rate among women is due to them being more able to manage complex emotions, as well as having more flexible coping strategies than men. Another reason is that men are socialised to internalise their feelings and this inhibits them from reaching out for the help that they need. Basically, it just isn’t the done thing for men to talk about how they feel. It’s supposedly emasculating. This is something that Scott did speak about.

Talking to the New Musical Express about being more open about mental health a few months before his death he said:

“I hate the idea that opening up is in any way emasculating. Even if it fucking is, who cares? It’s good to lay yourself a bit bare, and you’ll feel a bit better for it. But don’t think we’re all the way there yet. Now is the time for men to be as gentle and as open and emotionally fluent as they can be, I suppose.”  

The most recent statistics show that in 2017, there were 680 suicides in Scotland. Men accounted for 552 of those. I wouldn’t dare to presume why 680 people decided that they couldn’t take any more because every one of those stories will be different. Not every suicide will be the same, but for some reason I’ve imagined all those people standing on the edge of the Forth Road bridge holding hands.

Scott Hutchison’s family recently announced details of ‘Tiny Changes’, a new mental health charity in his memory. The name of the charity is inspired by a line from the song Heads Roll Off, (“While I’m alive, I’ll make tiny changes to Earth”) which has become a mantra for Frightened Rabbit fans working towards good causes in Scott’s memory since his passing. Now, his family hopes that the charity will continue the positive impact that his art and music has had on so many people.

Check out the charity and give a wee bit if you can. We all know a Scott.

Info: You can donate and get involved here:

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