‘Hardening up’ is never the answer
Former top speed walker Bary Neal came out of retirement to race and win the walking section of the 2017 King and Queen of the Withers race in memory of his son Matt Neal, who died of suspected suicide.
We often think the people who take their lives are the ones who didn’t have anything going for them, and just don’t want to be here, but nothing is further from the truth.
I have been looking into suicide, and so many of the people who have taken their lives were very clever, popular, caring and sporty, with no clear signs things were not right.
Unfortunately, some people can also be very good at hiding their inner feelings - that dark place that people who have never been to will not understand, and is so incredibly difficult to come out of.
It is impossible to prevent people going into these dark places, due to the fact that we have no control over situations and events that may happen to set things off inside us.
Over the last three and a half years I have had both my hips replaced, gone through a marriage break-up and lost a son, so it doesn’t get much darker than that.
Life wasn’t exactly exciting and I too tried to put on a brave face, and pretend things were better than they were when deep inside I was hurting so much.
Luckily for me I have an amazing best mate, my other two children and some amazing friends and family who looked out for me, visited me, encouraged me, prayed for me, sent me messages and just generally cared.
So, if you are reading this I encourage you to be that person too. Check up on your friends and family.
Encourage them to open up about their dark place. Listen, offer to help, let them know you have their back and visit them regularly.
One small action now, may be the single thing that helps get a person’s life back on track.
If you are a person who is in a dark place, never lose hope. Don’t try and sort things out by yourself, and never be afraid to open up about whatever it is that is eating away at you.
Go to a close friend or family member, or someone you trust and talk to them. The old saying of ‘‘harden up’’ is the most stupid thing I have heard and will get you nowhere.
Hardening up gives you the strength of one person to get you through the hard times, whereas opening up gives you the strength of as many people as you need to get you through.
Making that first step to open up is the hardest bit, but then at least you have got the ball rolling. And rather than relying on your own strength you now have the strength of others to help you too.
Suicide is a horrible illness which took more lives in 2015 in New Zealand than both the road deaths and drowning combined. Yet we see and hear so much more about those two.
Let’s all do our bit to start changing that. Let’s get people more aware of, and talking about suicide and help people who are in a dark place realise that storms will pass, the sun will reappear, and to never give up.
Let’s enjoy life to the fullest and help others do the same.
Bary Neal competed in the King and Queen of the Withers race in memory of his son Matt Neal, who died of suspected suicide.