SITTING on the edge of his bed in his army barracks, Gareth Snaith stared down at his arms.
He was just 20 years old, but at that moment he decided to end it all.
Living miles away from home, separated from his friends and family, he felt isolated and alone.
He believed he had nothing left to live for.
“I was ready to end my life, I was ready,” he told The Sun.
But, just as he felt the urge to kill himself, his phone buzzed and distracted him.
It stopped the now 35-year-old in his tracks, and ultimately saved his life.
“One perfectly timed message from my best friend asking me for a drink stopped me from ending it,” he said.
“It gave me enough time to pause and go for another day.
“Then I managed a second day, and a third.”
In the days and weeks that followed talking about his mental health saved him.
Today, to mark World Suicide Prevention Day, Gareth wants to speak up in a bid to help others.
Half a million men across the world die each year from suicide, with one life lost every minute, research by the charity Movember has shown.
In the UK, a life is lost to suicide every 90 minutes, which is why The Sun launched the You’re Not Alone campaign, to remind anyone facing a tough time, grappling with severe mental illness or feeling like there’s nowhere to turn, that there is hope.
Last month data from the Office for National Statistics (ONS) revealed that male suicide rates have reached a 20-year high.
You’re Not Alone
EVERY 90 minutes in the UK a life is lost to suicide.
It doesn’t discriminate, touching the lives of people in every corner of society – from the homeless and unemployed to builders and doctors, reality stars and footballers.
It’s the biggest killer of people under the age of 35, more deadly than cancer and car crashes.
And men are three times more likely to take their own life than women.
Yet it’s rarely spoken of, a taboo that threatens to continue its deadly rampage unless we all stop and take notice, now.
That is why The Sun launched the You’re Not Alone campaign.
The aim is that by sharing practical advice, raising awareness and breaking down the barriers people face when talking about their mental health, we can all do our bit to help save lives.
Let’s all vow to ask for help when we need it, and listen out for others… You’re Not Alone.
If you, or anyone you know, needs help dealing with mental health problems, the following organisations provide support:
In 2019, there were 5,691 suicides registered – that’s around 11 deaths per 100,000 of the population.
Men accounted for 75 per cent of those suicides – with 4,303 men and 1,388 women taking their own lives last year.
Each of those lives lost represents a family left behind. One of those is Phil Door’s family.
Chris his son, now 30, said losing his “happy” dad to suicide came out of the blue and has left a permanent scar on his life.
When he got a call from his dad’s wife telling him he hadn’t come home from work one day in November 2010, he realised something was wrong.
Phil’s best friend found him in woods close to his home in Kent, with a number of suicide notes.
“It all happened so quickly,” Chris said. “They found the car by the woods where he walked the dogs, but he hadn’t taken the dogs.
“His best friend found him. The first thing I thought was, ‘how will I tell my brothers?’.
“When I got the call something inside me knew it was serious but I never thought it would be suicide.
“The inquest showed he had attempted suicide once but it hadn’t worked. So he tried a second time.”
Chris said that this all happened in a matter of minutes.
“They also found he had tried to call a number of people at the time, but I wasn’t able to answer because I was at work, the same was true for others.”
Chris said that not answering that call is the one “what if” he has never been able to shake off.
Both Chris and Gareth are sharing their experiences to help raise awareness with the help of the charity Movember.
No shame in speaking out
Gareth said he wants other men to know there is “no shame is putting your hands up and telling people you need help”.
It was 15 years ago when he was consumed by suicidal thoughts.
He had moved out of his parents home in Swansea to join the airforce.
Increasingly, he began to miss the familiarity of his hometown, his friends and playing footie on a Saturday.
“I was feeling a sense of growing isolation, I felt like things just weren’t normal,” he told The Sun.
“I had no one to run ideas by.”
While he is adamant, he doesn’t want to point fingers at the military, Gareth said there was a distinct lack of support – something that is reflected in wider society.
With each passing day, Gareth said his negative feelings increased and he reached a point where he felt he couldn’t continue any longer.
Gareth believes his friend reaching out at that moment saved him.
He admits that he and his mates would laugh and joke about life, but “no one would really talk about those sorts of issues”.
“No one was talking about feeling isolated or alone, it just wasn’t something that was seen as normal,” he added.
While there have been huge steps forward in the last 20 years, Gareth said he still finds people don’t want to make the conversation “all about them”.
After leaving the military, Gareth moved home and started to address his mental health.
He spoke to his parents and friends, and went back to college, seeking professional help as well as learning his own coping mechanisms.
It’s a beast that tears you inside out
“Whatever the clinical diagnosis might be, I like to think of it as my black dog because if it was good enough for Churchill, it’s good enough for me,” he told The Sun.
“Mostly, it’s a scrawny, yappy little thing. It’s easy to outrun and easily put back in its cage.
“Sometimes it gets under my feet, trying to trip me up.
“But if you’re ready for it, it takes nothing more than a cup of tea, a chat or a bike ride to put it back in its place.
“Other times, it’s the beast that tears you inside out.
“It bursts out of the shadows out of nowhere, ripping through you, tearing and snarling.
“The moment you feel a hint of weakness it’s there. It knows your weaknesses, remembers everything and is utterly merciless.”
Gareth said being aware of his mental health is a big step, but he urged other men in similar situations to forgive themselves.
“You have to be forgiving, everyone makes mistakes, it’s about forgiving yourself,” he said.
HAVING DIFFICULT CONVERSATIONS CAN SAVE LIVES
THE fact male suicides have reached a 20-year high is an “upsetting” reminder of the tragic loss of life, Movember’s Global Director of Mental Health and Suicide Prevention, Brendan Maher said.
“We know that suicide is a very complex problem and one of the most difficult public health challenges of our time.
“Our hearts go out to everyone who is grieving the loss of a loved one.
“While the numbers are sobering we can’t forget the tireless work being done in our community to prevent suicide.
“Family caring for family, friends caring for friends, colleagues caring for colleagues.
“Our frontline workers and crisis support workers are working tirelessly to keep people safe and well.
“It further reinforces Movember’s commitment and dedication to reducing suicide rates amongst men, and strengthening natural supports is a key focus of our work.
“Tools such as Movember Conversations provide very practical guidance on how to support those in your life who might be struggling.
“Sometimes we don’t know where to start, or what to say if someone says they’re not OK.
“And whilst we know these conversations may be difficult, having them can save lives.”
“It might sound like a cliche but you really are not alone.
“You will feel like you are but that’s your black dog lying to you, it’s not who you are, it’s trying to hurt you – but it’s not part of you.”
Recognising it can be hard to face up to mental health issues, Gareth said as a 6ft bald bloke, he is just proof it can affect anyone.
“People have crossed the road when I have walked towards them before,” he said.
“I do boxing and things like that, I was in the military. I’m not someone who people would look at and think, ‘he’s weak’.
“There is no shame in putting your hand up and being open.”
He was the best dad, he just didn’t know it
It is something Chris wishes his dad, Phil, had felt he could do nearly 10 years ago.
His parents divorced when Chris was 12, and his dad moved out and remarried.
After having a vasectomy reversed, Phil and his new wife were expecting a baby – a son Zac, who was born months after Phil’s death in 2010.
To his family, it appeared that the dad-of-six, who was soon to be a dad-of-seven, had lots to look forward to. They had no idea of the inner turmoil he was facing.
“He was always an extremely happy guy, he was the life of the party and would do anything for anyone, sometimes to the detriment of himself.
“He would often take too much on and try to help too many people and then would struggle to fulfil all of his own promises.
“That being said, he was the best dad you could ask for, and a great role model to all his kids.”
But Phil’s happy demeanour hid a dark and troubling truth.
The notes he left at the scene hinted at his struggles, and his fears that he was a bad father who wasn’t able to spend enough time with his kids.
Chris said: “We think he was also in a large amount of debt and by taking his own life he thought the debt would go away and we would all be better off without him being around.
“Essentially, he thought suicide was the best option for his family.
“Our family will never come to terms with it and even now, we struggle to talk about it.”
While he misses his dad every day, Chris said his loss has helped define him as a person.
“It made us want to make him proud,” he told The Sun.
“You need a support network around you who won’t judge you for how you are feeling.
“From experience, a lot of people don’t talk or share with their friends and family because they feel like a burden.
“I can assure everyone that the “burden” has the potential to become far bigger if you don’t talk.
“My dad is a prime example of someone who wouldn’t share his true thoughts and feelings because he was too busy taking problems off of other people”.
If you’re struggling and need someone to talk to you can call the Samaritans on 116 123.