Whether it was suicide or not, this was yet another man hiding nightmares behind smiles – someone nobody thought would vanish this way. He was 30. This needs to stop happening
Two weeks ago, a friend of mine who was very close to me during my depression time drew my attention to a Facebook post from a former colleague we had at Alzheimer’s Society. I was surprised, but most of all I felt encouraged to see another voice speaking up from the darkness of social media:
I’ve had a shit 2016 and I’ve realised over the past few weeks if I’d only reached out to my amazing group of friends I’d have found it a lot easier. Men really don’t talk about our mental health enough, and in the words of The Hold Steady, it Almost Killed Me. Movember this year is dedicated to stopping men dying too young so in that spirit I just wanted to (re)-tag some friends who’ve made sure I’m still here.
Today I learned that Ian is not “here” anymore.
During my new journey in social entrepreneurship – where I’m trying to design a project that mirrors my values, my competencies and what I really would like to change in the world – I had been planning to talk to Ian and suggest writing up his story. Not that he needed my writing skills (and definitely not in Portuguese), for he is – was – himself a great communicator. But knowing how tough it can be to describe our own darkest feelings and thoughts, and knowing that he was now ready to talk about his experience, I thought we could embrace this cause together.
Well, I just had the proof that being open about these issues doesn’t mean that they have been solved – in fact it should make us more alert and ready to give concrete help.
Ian and I did not work very closely together, but whenever we met – usually in a pub – I would joke that he was probably the only person I knew who moved houses more often than me. The way he dealt – or seemed to deal – with that London nightmare was so British, with a sarcasm and an accent that always made me laugh.
A person who suffers from mental health problems is fully legit to laugh genuinely – and thank God those moments exist. But we urgently need to also allow us space and opportunities be legit to say that we feel… like crap.
Before dying during his sleep, Ian wrote “fuck you, 2016”. It’s not the first time I read this sentence, and that leaves me anxious.
The exact cause for Ian’s death is unclear, but it seems clear that despair was a big chunk of it. And that can only be fought through genuine connection – which our generation seems to be losing.
If you want to join me in this fight, please do let me know. And be quick, because clearly there isn’t always a tomorrow.
My friend Matt was very close to Ian and kindly set up a JustGiving page in his memory. You can donate here to the Movember Foundation
to stop men dying too young.