Talking more, to save lives

2018-09-21 14:27
Daryl Brown (centre) with Cape Mental Health social worker Jonathan Manuel and Christine Wessels, whose partner committed suicide, at the Movember “Because Talking Saves Lives” event to mark World Suicide Awareness Day. Photo: Nasief Manie

Daryl Brown (centre) with Cape Mental Health social worker Jonathan Manuel and Christine Wessels, whose partner committed suicide, at the Movember “Because Talking Saves Lives” event to mark World Suicide Awareness Day. Photo: Nasief Manie

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Five years ago, Daryl Brown said a little prayer, because “he didn’t know what was coming next”, and then threw himself in front of a train on the London Underground­.

A few moments later, Brown woke up under the train, his legs so badly damaged he would lose them, and couldn’t believe his suicide attempt had failed.

Today, Daryl (31) is working to ensure that other men talk about their emotions and to prevent others from feeling like their only option is to take their own lives.

Brown struggled with depression from the age of 12, when he was bullied at school for being gay. He tried various things to “fix” himself, often volunteering at various organisations.

But in 2013, while living in London after completing his studies, his depression could no longer be ignored. He struggled to get a work permit and his romantic relationship fell apart, leaving him feeling “like a failure”.

“I couldn’t think of a way to fix myself,” he says. “I just wanted to go to sleep and never wake up.”

Brown began planning his suicide meticulously: He told his friends he was returning to Cape Town, because he didn’t want them to know about his suicide or feel guilty; he deactivated his Facebook account; packed his suitcase; gave notice and paid his rent.

Then he went to the Underground station and tried to kill himself. “I took a deep breath, thinking: ‘Okay, this is it’,” he says.

Turning point

For months after his suicide attempt, Brown wished he had been successful.

But three months into his recovery, he met a psychologist and began therapy – something he describes as a turning point. He also underwent extensive physiotherapy, with his therapist becoming his “cheerleader and best friend”, showing him what a “normal relationship” could be like.

“In a way, coming to terms with losing my legs was easier than dealing with my depression. You find a way to get around without your legs because you have to. But for so many years I had pushed my depression aside and it was harder to deal with it.”

Brown returned to his home in Melkbos-strand three months after his attempted suicide – a move which made him realise he could use his experience to help others.

“When I came back to Cape Town so many of my friends told me they had similar feelings that they had never spoken about. I realised the only way to get through this is to talk about it,” he says.

“When I saw my friends and family in Cape Town, I realised how many people loved and cared for me. We love people, but we don’t always say it or show it.”

Suffering in silence

With this driver to help others, Brown began working with the South African Depression and Anxiety Group in 2014.

He also recently joined the Movember campaign.

Movember South Africa has adopted mental health awareness as one of their outcomes and health focuses, and delivered a mental health awareness campaign supporting World Suicide Prevention Day, which took place on Monday 10 September at an event at the V&A Waterfront’s Silo District.

This year, the awareness campaign surrounding World Suicide Prevention Day pre-empts the annual Movember campaign launch at the end of September, with the message to encourage South African men to talk and “Be a Man of More Words”.

According to Jonathan Manuel, a social worker for Cape Mental Health, the stigma attached to mental health often makes it taboo for men to openly acknowledge that they are not coping or require help. This results in men suffering in silence in fear of being judged until suicide becomes their only option. In South Africa, on average 14 to 18 men die by suicide every day – three times more than the number of women.

Garron Gsell, chief executive and founder of the Men’s Foundation, says: “Too many men try to deal with challenges on their own and suffer in silence. We’re hoping to show men that talking saves lives. To deal better with tough times, and to be the dads, mates and sons they want to be, be men of more words. We want men and their supporters to know that talking – more and with more meaningful words – saves lives.” 

For help with depression and suicidal thoughts, call Lifeline on 0861 322 322 or the Suicide Crisis line on 0800 567 567.

For local programmes, visit www.movember.com.

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