Being the Story Live is our immersive storytelling event providing a platform for people who don’t normally have one, to inspire new ideas, challenge perceptions, and stimulate conversation on issues. Think social sector meets TedTalks. sounddelivery hosted our very first online edition of Being the Story live on the theme of ‘Life in Lockdown’. At Being the Story Craig Spillane, Founder of Men Unite talked about why we need to speak about male suicide. Read his script, and watch his talk below. Some of what Craig says some people may find triggering.
I’ve been wrecking my brain over this speech for about 6 or 8 weeks now, you see I’ve never really done anything like this. I even won an award last year and had to get up on a stage to accept it in front of a packed room of business representatives and radio station executives. I was voted as a local hero for “making a difference” by the listeners of a commercial radio station. I was shocked to say the least. ME winning an award! I’ve been in prison 3 times over the years and I’ve been into rehab with a £1000 a week cocaine addiction, yet I was up there on a stage “Literally Speechless” accepting an award for setting up a Facebook group simply to encourage men to speak.
That Group is called Men Unite and it’s literally changing Men’s lives!
It’s currently 6:10am just a week or so before I’m here now speaking to you all. Thank you for all watching by the way I won’t go on too much about the unprecedented times that we’re living in. I’m sure like me you are all sick to death of hearing the words COVID & PANDEMIC. What I’ve done is the typical Modern Man thing here. I’ve left it as late as I possibly could, in the hope that it would go away & be forgotten about and I’d not have to deal with it, but thanks to my good friend Darren from Expert Citizens here I am typing away in silence. The TV Volume is set to 4 and the family are all still in bed asleep . Today’s “modern man “ is statistically somewhat troubled to say the least.
Last year alone there were 5691 deaths through suicide registered in England, 4303 of those were men so that’s almost 80 percent…Or on average 12 men ever day, or 1 man every two hours who takes his own life. It’s the single biggest killer of men under 50 in the UK. It’s a harrowing statistic and one I’m passionate about changing. Imagine the ripple effect of this, all of the heartbroken families and friends who are left behind…
Right let’s talk about about Men Unite
It was April 10th 2019 and I was sat on the toilet before work, this is the place all great ideas come from isn’t it? I was sat scrolling through Facebook and catching up on the group chats that I’m in and I was Just reading all these negative posts and comments. I just thought about creating My own WhatsApp group just for a few friends to join who I knew had been struggling lately as a way to connect. But then I decided a Facebook group as it might be easier, say I wanted to add somebody and I didn’t have his number. So I created Men Unite as a closed private group on Facebook and invited 20 or 30 friends from various backgrounds.
I wrote this as the group description…
“This is a group for Men. We are here to support and encourage and help our fellow men. If you have HAD or ARE having any issues we want to talk to you. Whether it’s addiction or if you lost someone you love. If you feel alone. If you feel depressed or feel anxious we want to HELP. If you are in debt or you feel the world is caving in on you we want to help you. As men, all too often we don’t talk. We don’t want to drop our guards and let people know our struggles, our fears or our secrets. We shut down. We close our emotions. We become selfish and distant. We slip more on the slope that we may have only had one foot on and then it consumes us. I want us a group to stop this cycle and break the stigma to make it ok to talk. To let our fellow men know we are here and that we are in this together! I’m looking for people willing to share their stories and experiences and give advice with us. Most importantly, talk to each other or even privately just one of us, engage with somebody and share your troubles and believe me it will help you”
So that was it. Men Unite was born.
Throughout that very first day I had loads of messages from mates asking questions “What’s this group you’ve added me in? “ “What’s it for ?” “Who’s it for ? Is it private? Can my Missus see my posts ? I assured them it was just the members who could see. The very first person who posted in men unite was my best friend Ian. His post was brutally honest and open and I knew I had created something special. Ian is the typical mate. In the pub he’s funny and laughs & jokes with the lads. When we’re out in couples he’s the loving husband and we all get on so well. He has beautiful wife & kids, a lovely house and a great stable job so looking from the outside in Ian has what a lot of men would envy.
However that didn’t stop him from trying to take his own life. Over Christmas in 2018 I’d met him for a pint on what’s traditionally called Black Friday, when the pubs are all rammed with people you’ve hardly seen all year (it sounds ironic this year doesn’t it ?) so I’d had a few with Ian and said goodbye…Catch up soon…Have a great Christmas.
I think it was the 21st of December or whatever date the Friday fell on that year. Then All of a sudden it was new year and I thought I’d ring Ian to see what plans were. He didn’t answer but I thought nothing of it. A few days later i got in touch and I remember the sound of his voice clearly. It was different. He sounded vacant. He told me he’d been sectioned on the 23rd and missed Christmas. He had tried to take an overdose. After what seemed like hours of talking he finally opened up and simply said Christmas had gotten too much for him. He was stressing over money and now the kids were a little older he didn’t know what to buy them. He told me this in confidence and asked me not to tell anyone, so I was really proud he found the courage to open up on Men Unite. He’d not even told his family yet here he was posting to 30 odd of our “ mutual friends”.
From Day One Men Unite just snowballed. Friends joined and then invited their friends and so on and so on. We now have 14000 members and have reached 78 countries.
We have volunteers on hand 24 hours a day. We have an admin team based all over the world. Places such as Australia, America, Canada. There’s a team of around 20 of us to offer support. Having members worldwide means all posts are read or seen by somebody within minutes even seconds in some cases. We have now set up as Community Interest Company and we offer various social activities for men. Football plays a big part as it brings men together. We are based at a non league football ground (Hanley Town) where we hope to open a drop in centre. We have a partnership with Stoke City FC and offer a service called “ Football To All” we have various other social activities going on, fishing clubs, running, walking meetings. We’ve just launched our own podcast hosted by our amazing admin Volunteer BIDDY and Port Vale Player and MEN UNITE AMBASSADOR CHRISTIAN MONTANO. His own story is powerful and moving so please look out for that on our podcast. Even professional footballers struggle with Mental Health issues.
Since lockdown I’ve been busier than ever, just before the pandemic we were looking at ways to make this a full time job for me. That would be my dream, but the lack of funding for mental health services is at a breaking point throughout the entire UK it’s very difficult to do this right now. So I’m a full time electrician and full time volunteer.
The pandemic has seen men really really struggle. Just simply the change in daily routine. Everyday things such as just going out to work. It’s hard enough to get men to speak anyway but take away their work life and it’s a very difficult change to deal with. Or their social outlets such as even going to watch the match with friends. These might have been the only places that they would actually think about venting or speaking out about how they feel or if something was bothering them and maybe let their guard down a little bit. It’s been a particularly tough time for those men who had issues prior to all of this. Some of our members have really struggled and heartbreakingly we have lost a couple in the most devastating of circumstances. It’s vital that groups like ours are on hand to help and offer to support men during their darkest days. In Stoke recently an 18 year old jumped off the Bridge onto the main ring road around the city. This is a public health crisis. We’re on the verge of another pandemic, a mental health pandemic.
I can see we’ve come a long way in 18 short months. We are growing daily. This work is vital. We can only get bigger and get better and more importantly help MEN get better.
WE ARE MEN UNITE YOU ARE NOT WEAK IF YOU SPEAK.