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
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