Dean Russell MP speaks in International Men's Day debate

Updated: Apr 28

It is estimated by the World Health Organisation that globally 800,000 people die every year due to suicide. In the UK, three quarters of suicides are of men. I question why it is that men suffer the most with suicide and think it is often down to the challenges in society and how we, as a male species, do not ask for help.

During my maiden speech, I spoke about the concept of HOPE being an acronym standing for Help One Person Everyday. Sometimes, that one person has to be ourselves, but it so hard to ask for help when that is seen as a weakness. I say to anyone out there right now who is suffering that it is not a weakness to ask for help and support; it is a strength. When I look at the social media narrative and the often divisive debate around masculinity and men, I draw on my belief that we cannot heal divisions by being divisive, we cannot tackle hatred by being hateful and we cannot show our strength only by belittling those who show weakness. The debate that we have in this Chamber today should not be limited to the time we have here. It should be a societal debate about how we tackle these big challenges in society. How do we look at tackling the stigma, not just through medical and NHS support but through the narrative that we provide as politicians and members of the public.

We need to listen to each other. Sometimes when I look at the world, especially through the lens of social media, the web and the media, I feel as if we are in a world full of those shouting and it makes me ask who are those who are listening. Let us all listen to what people are saying. Let us not consider men to be the enemy. We are all part of the important fabric of society. We all have differences. To anyone who is struggling right now, who is thinking the worst thoughts, remember that you are unique. You are one of 7 billion on this planet and you are the only version of you. You need to continue your story. You need to be here for one more day; just give it another few minutes, another hour. Just give yourself a bit more time to find out why you are really here. The power of your story, of overcoming it, will make a difference to others and to those around you and, by God, it will make a difference to your family and friends. If they do not have you here tomorrow, if they do not have the stories of the difficult times as well as the joyful times, we all lack because of that.

So I ask all of us: please ask for help if you need it and ask others if they need help. Remember it is okay not to be okay, as my hon. Friends have said. It is also okay to ask others if they are okay. It is okay to say to them, “Are you really okay?” Ask them more than once. That second or third time might be the chance for them to open up in a way that they never have before. I am so pleased that my hon. Friend the Member for Mansfield (Ben Bradley) organised the debate today because without it we may not have these voices. Today we might change someone’s life. If, off the back of today, we stop just one person from committing suicide, even if it is over the next hundred years, that will have made this debate worth while.