‘Har­den­ing up’ is never the an­swer

Marlborough Express - The Saturday Express, Marlborough - - CONVERSATIONS -

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.

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