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Glasgow City Council

Glasgow Man Uses Personal Experience to Help Prevent Suicides

Published 9/9/19

Derek Chalmers MindTheMen Displays a larger version of this image in a new browser window

The end of his first marriage and a long-standing battle with mental health problems drove Derek Chalmers to attempt suicide.

Derek of Glasgow's Southside said: "I'd struggled with my mental health since my teens and the end of my marriage sent me over the edge. I was drinking and started using drugs and as time wore on I didn't like the person I could see myself becoming. I'd had suicidal thoughts in the past, but this was the first time I planned what I was going to do in any detail. I rehearsed it and rationalised it in my mind."

Luckily, the father-of-three survived, and the shock of what he'd done later made him realise he wanted to live and desperately needed help.

Eight years on, Derek is in a much happier place after receiving treatment, changing careers and meeting his second wife. The 40-year-old now uses his personal experience to help others - working as a peer support worker with mental health charity SAMH in North Lanarkshire.

In his spare time, Derek also volunteers for MindTheMen - a voluntary group which meets weekly in Springburn and Partick.

He said: "There is still a stigma around suicide and mental health issues. I felt guilt and shame about what I'd done, because it would have hurt others, but I also had a sense of relief that it hadn't worked. I still have my bad days, but I know my triggers and how to manage them. I get a lot from using my personal experiences to help other guys open up about their own mental ill-health and thoughts of suicide."

MindTheMen was set up by Gary Macdonald in memory of his cousin, Grant, who died by suicide. The group was set up as a legacy to Grant with flyers, t-shirts and wristbands bearing the club slogan, #supportgranted.

Men aged 18 to 80 years, from all walks of life attend. On the first night at the West of Scotland Cricket Club in Peel Street, Partick, - 31 men walked through the door. A new branch in Springburn Community Hub in the shopping centre is also helping men in the North of the city. Both groups meet on Mondays from 7pm-9pm.

Father-of-three, Derek, said: "There is a lot of toxic masculinity in society today, which suggests big boys don't cry or it's weak to admit you need help. That's utter rubbish and it's costing lives. We have a phrase that's been used more and more at MindTheMen, it's very simple and very powerful  - It's Not Weak to Speak."

MindTheMen is a suicide prevention peer-to-peer support group where men can meet in a safe place, talk openly, be listened to and feel supported. It is not a crisis service. The volunteer facilitators have all received suicide prevention training and will signpost men to help. But anyone who needs urgent, immediate help should contact their GP, The Samaritans or Breathing Space.

MindTheMen is confidential and free. No one need give their real name and everyone is guaranteed a warm welcome. Free tea and coffee are also on offer. Find out more on Facebook or twitter @mindthemen or go along to a meeting.

Derek said: "Anyone new walking through the door will be welcomed warmly by our facilitators and members."

* If you or anyone close to you is struggling with issues of suicide, please seek help, either from your GP, the Samaritans (call free on 116 123 or by email at jo@samaritans.org) or from Breathing Space (call free on 0800 83 85 87).

Glasgow's Health and Social Care Partnership also runs an out-of-hours Mental Health crisis service. It can provide short-term intensive community based care and is targeted at people who are experiencing a mental health crisis. It operates seven days a week and is available by phone on 0845 650 1730, Monday to Friday 8pm - 9am, weekends and public holidays 5pm - 9am.

More than 1000 people received Suicide Prevention training from Glasgow's Health & Social Care Partnership last year.

Find out more about Suicide Prevention training and sources of help for anyone struggling at https://www.yoursupportglasgow.org/chooselife.aspx

If you are having serious thoughts about suicide, and have a plan and the means to carry it out: call 999 immediately. 

Published 9/9/19

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