Phone call from a friend stopped Euan from mak­ing ‘worst’ mis­take of his life

Coun­cil­lor speaks out about his bat­tle with de­pres­sion and re­veals ma­jor turn­ing point

Evening Times - - NEWS - BY DREW SANDELANDS

THE note Euan Block­ley placed on his man­tel­piece told his mum how much he loved her.

De­pres­sion had made him feel like a bur­den. “I de­cided it was too much,” he said. “I de­cided every­one would be bet­ter off with­out me.

“I shut my­self away from the world, I didn’t speak to any­one, I didn’t see any­one and in the end I just wanted it all to stop.”

Thank­fully, she never got to read it. A phone call from a friend proved to be a turn­ing point; the let­ter was scrunched up.

The friend, phon­ing to of­fer his tick­ets to the Rangers game to coun­cil­lor Block­ley, then 18, stopped him from mak­ing “one of the worst mis­takes”.

“It pushed things into fo­cus, all the things I’d miss and ac­tu­ally life was worth liv­ing,” Mr Block­ley told coun­cil­lors last week.

“That mo­ment changed my life. I sought help and forced my­self to talk about it.

“When I did I felt like there was a light break­ing through the dark clouds, that this wasn’t per­ma­nent and I didn’t have to live like this.”

Unity in the City Cham­bers can be hard to find, coun­cil­lors hold views across the po­lit­i­cal spec­trum and a con­sen­sus is not al­ways pos­si­ble.

When Tory coun­cil­lor Mr Block­ley fin­ished his speech, the whole cham­ber gave him a round of ap­plause. Deputy Lord Provost Philip Braat thanked him for his “brave” words, which kicked off an emo­tional dis­cus­sion on men­tal health, fo­cus­ing on men and the is­sues they face.

Sui­cide is the largest cause of death for men un­der 50 in the UK and, in 2017, 75 per cent of sui­cides were male.

Two mo­tions, one put for­ward by Mr Block­ley and one from SNP coun­cil­lor Al­lan Gow, were com­bined and sup­ported by coun­cil­lors from all par­ties.

It means a cross-party work­ing group will be set up to rec­om­mend how best the coun­cil can aid com­mu­nity sup­port groups.

“If we can find a way to help one em­ployee, to help one in­di­vid­ual, at the right time then this ef­fort will have been well worth­while,” Mr Gow said. He wants the group’s find­ings to be re­ported back be­fore the au­thor­ity’s bud­get is set in Fe­bru­ary.

More coun­cil­lors rose in sup­port of the mo­tion, open­ing up about their men­tal health strug­gles. Alex Wil­son said he had felt he had nowhere to turn.

“As a very young man, be­fore I be­came a teenager, I was sex­u­ally abused by a non-fam­ily mem­ber,” the SNP rep­re­sen­ta­tive said. “I strug­gled with that for many, many years.

“Fast for­ward to when I had my own son and all them thoughts came back to me, how do I pro­tect him? What do I do to be there for him? I couldn’t cope, I strug­gled badly.

“I went on a series of self­de­struc­tion within my­self, lead­ing to four sui­cide at­tempts. I was hos­pi­talised three times and sec­tioned for a week.”

It was a “real strug­gle to come to terms with”, he said. “The wait­ing times were ap­palling. I was on the brink of giv­ing up when – this might sound cliché – I got in­volved with the in­de­pen­dence ref­er­en­dum. That re­fo­cused by thoughts go­ing for­ward.”

He hopes the coun­cil’s work can help cut wait­ing times so: “No-one will have to go through what I did.”

Labour coun­cil­lor Gary Gray lost his brother to sui­cide. “My twin brother was a vet­eran,” he said.

“He sur­vived fight­ing ter­ror­ism only to kill him­self be­cause he couldn’t live with the af­ter­math.

“Thir­teen years ago to­day, I buried my twin. Fam­i­lies are be­hind th­ese vic­tims. When they feel it’s the only op­tion left to them it’s a sad in­dict­ment on so­ci­ety.”

He added: “The let­ter my twin left me, the fi­nal para­graph was: “I can’t keep fight­ing against my­self.”

“That was so sad. In the mil­i­tary, you’re a man, you don’t talk. We need to get away from that.

“There’s still so much still to be done. If it hadn’t been for my young son when my twin died, my mother would have buried both her sons. That would have been bet­ter than liv­ing with the heartache.”

Green Party coun­cil­lor Kim Long ex­plained how she had spent the sum­mer check­ing up on a friend in cri­sis.

She said the coun­cil must ac­knowl­edge why men strug­gle men­tally. “Men are not more likely to be in poverty than

women or to live with abuse or be pow­er­less,” she said.

“The rea­sons are toxic mas­culin­ity and pa­tri­archy. The pa­tri­archy harms all of us, it is the wall­pa­per to our lives from the minute we’re born. It tells mums don’t dress your baby boy in pink be­cause they’ll look gay or they’ll look girly and both of those are not al­lowed.

“It tells boys and men, don’t cry. Don’t show your emo­tions, don’t ask for help, don’t ex­press af­fec­tion, don’t be soft and don’t you dare be weak.”

Michael Cullen, an SNP coun­cil­lor who has cam­paigned for more sup­port for men, wants the coun­cil to con­sider a dig­i­tal ap­proach as well as of­fer­ing com­mu­nity halls for sup­port groups to meet. “Th­ese groups are be­com­ing a life­line for men,” he said.

He cited the work be­ing done by Scot­land’s first men’s men­tal health char­ity Broth­ers in Arms, which has an app to of­fer ad­vice to those who are strug­gling, and MindtheMen, a men’s sui­cide pre­ven­tion peer sup­port group.

MindtheMen was set up by Gary Macdon­ald in mem­ory of his cousin, Grant. The group meets weekly in Spring­burn and Partick, pro­vid­ing “a safe en­vi­ron­ment for men who need to talk about their chal­lenges”.

Mr Macdon­ald said the group was a “last re­sort” for some of the men. “A lot have been let down by ser­vices,” he said.

He would like to see the coun­cil lis­ten to what ex­ist­ing groups have to say, pro­mot­ing their work and help­ing to raise aware­ness. It is im­por­tant to re­duce the stigma around men­tal health prob­lems, he said.

“It’s not about throw­ing money at this, bring­ing peo­ple to­gether doesn’t cost any­thing.”

I went on a series of self­de­struc­tion within my­self, lead­ing to four sui­cide at­tempts

Top: Gary Macdon­ald, cen­tre, with, from left, Dun­can Hay­worth, Mark Craw­ford, Gary, John Baines and Derek Chalmers Above: Coun­cil­lor Gary Gray

Above: Euan Block­ley was thanked for his ‘brave’ words in the City Cham­bers

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