A deafening silence surrounds young male suicide

By - Tuesday 29th March, 2016

A Croydon tragedy leads Lauren Furey to speak out on a subject close to her heart

On Tuesday 8th March 2016, Jerome Rogers’ body was discovered in woodland on Featherbed Lane, just outside New Addington. He had taken his own life. Jerome was twenty years old.

I knew Jerome, not as well as many but he was a close friend to my brother and a member of our Leefest camping crew each summer. To fathom how a young man like Jerome, with his whole life ahead of him, could choose to make such a permanent and devastating decision that has deeply affected many people is hard to understand.

The male suicide rate continues to spike each year whilst suicides in women remain relatively consistent. On the surface, I believe that the cause is relatively obvious: men do not talk as openly about mental health issues as women do. Women have their confidantes, their lifelines, and they’re ready and willing to open up and discuss their issues, to find a resolution and a way to feel ‘normal’ again. But the stigma around mental health continues to persist, even now in 2016, and prevents some people from feeling that they can talk openly and honestly about their problems. The leading cause of death among men aged 20–34 in England and Wales is suicide.

A problem can feel too big to face alone

Depression and anxiety are likely to affect everyone at some point in their lifetime. Chances are that you know someone who is fighting a silent battle. I battled with my own mental health issues throughout my mid teens and occasionally even now, in my late twenties. Sometimes it takes every ounce of strength to do seemingly normal things like get out of bed, jump in the shower or get on a tram. Mostly, it’s easiest not to talk about those times. I feel that by opening up about my struggle it becomes tangible, it becomes real, and suddenly it feels too big to face alone. That’s the scariest part about dealing with depression: feeling alone.

I can categorically say that no one person battling with any form of mental health issues is ever alone. There is always help. There is always a way. Most importantly, there is always a reason to keep going.

Mental health organisations based in the borough and around the country are specially trained and qualified to deal with the problems that we face that seem so daunting and overwhelming. They offer a lifeline to people who feel that they no longer know where to turn for help and advice.

I questioned what good talking to someone could possibly do

I first spoke to a counsellor when I was fifteen years old. I remember how distant I felt, sitting in a room with a complete stranger and being expected to divulge the things that troubled me the most. I remember questioning to myself what good talking to somebody could actually do. How can their words have a positive impact on my life and how I face certain challenges? I couldn’t have been more wrong. The terror that comes from feeling alone and vulnerable in your own head is swiftly laid to rest in counselling because you’re realise that you’re not alone, you’re not a bad person and things will get better.

I wrestled with writing this piece last year and now I regret that I didn’t. I suppose I was afraid, in some small way, that by writing about a sensitive subject I was going to be exposing a part of myself that I had kept fiercely private. I don’t know if it will even have an impact on anybody reading it but if it does and it encourages even one person to reach out for help, then it will be worth it.

Fundamentally, I believe that more needs to be done to promote mental health organisations, locally and nationally. The stigma that surrounds people battling with these kind of problems prevents them from speaking up and reaching out for help. In 2016, we should be treating mental health issues with the same care and attention as we do physical ailments. In all honesty, there’s probably no organ in the body more important than the human brain and it needs to be looked after too. Quitting smoking and reducing your cholesterol intake may work wonders for the lungs and heart but when it comes to the brain, it’s a little more complex.

Filling your body with sugar, alcohol and fat won’t do your brain any favours

There are plenty of things that can be done in your day-to-day life to ensure that you protect your mental wellbeing. Exercise is a fantastic way of keeping the mind healthy. Sometimes the brain cannot function properly if we’re not looking after the body as a whole and exercise is a great way to release stress, tension and anxiety. A good workout also releases positive chemicals such as dopamine and serotonin into the brain, which make us feel good.

Diet is another crucial factor when it comes to thinking clearly. Filling your body with sugar, fat and alcohol won’t do your brain any favours but eating diets rich with protein and omega 3 will help. Fresh fruit and veg is also crucial, and so is staying hydrated. B vitamins seem to have a lot of beneficial properties when it comes to mental well-being too.

The most important thing to do, though, is talk. Talk to your closest friend, a family member or a trained professional. Whatever is eating you up inside, talk about it and get it off your chest. The deafening silence surrounding mental health problems will only continue if we don’t speak up, be heard and make use of the facilities that we have at our disposal. It’s important to be aware of where we can turn when we need help.

Croydon Council has a section on its website devoted to all the mental health organisations based in Croydon. You may find that one service is more relevant to your needs than another and you may also be surprised at the variety of companies that are working and supporting people of all ages across the borough.

Alternatively, you can always contact the Samaritans. The number to call is 116 123 and they are available twenty-four hours a day, 365 days a year.

A Go Fund Me page has been set up to raise money for Jerome Roger’s funeral. If you wish to donate, please click here.  

Lauren Furey

Lauren Furey

I was born in Croydon in 1988 and I've spent my life here, building friendships and experiences that have shaped me as a person. As a Croydon native, I have a big passion for local events, arts, history and culture... and the dearly departed Mexway. I now work as a freelance writer.

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  • John Gass

    Like Lauren, I am uneasy about posting what is, inevitably, very personal. However, I think that a big discussion needs to take place so that everyone understands mental health as well as they do physical health.

    I agree that the most likely reason for higher suicide rates amongst men is a fear of the consequences of speaking out or asking for help. Sadly, these fears are all too often real. I was, some years ago, signed off work for two weeks with work-related stress. Despite my employer having my doctor’s note and mental health discrimination being illegal, I was phoned by them to tell me that unless I turned up for work that afternoon, I would be sacked. As a result, I never did go back to that company and my mental illness was prolonged.

    But, if men are encouraged to speak out, there is equally a need for others to be willing to listen. And listen deeply and non-judgementally, with empathy, honesty and integrity. Being told to ‘pull yourself together’ or having to hear ‘but we all get depressed’ isn’t just useless and misinformed twaddle, it is actually damaging because it invalidates the sufferer and their experiences, most likely leaving them feeling even more desperate.

    With regard to mental health support in Croydon, and I speak from experience, I believe that NHS services are completely broken, and any support offered is as likely to do harm as good. Below are two extracts from a letter I recently received from a senior manager working for SLaM, who are the specialist healthcare trust contracted to provide mental health services in Croydon. In summary: there is no general, regular and ongoing support available for mental health outpatients – we’re on our own. Also, to get even an assessment for talking therapy takes two months and, if you’re lucky enough to be deemed suitable and in enough need, you’ll have to then wait more than two years after the assessment to begin treatment. Imagine the outcry if everyone with a physical illness had to wait two months to see a doctor and then more than two years for treatment.

    The government talks grandiosely about equality between mental and physical healthcare whilst simultaneously assigning funding in such a way that the gap is widening. Services and support that, a decade ago, could be accessed in a timely manner are now no longer available at all, and sick people are being left to fend for themselves. And yet… and yet… it is still only people who have direct experience of mental health issues who are speaking out. It’s, frankly, a disgrace – there should be demonstrations, marches, petitions.

    So, yes, I’m sure we all agree that it’s appalling so many young men are committing suicide but it’s a situation whose solution relies on each and every one of us to get involved. I’d encourage everyone to gain a degree of understanding regarding mental health – local mental health organisations such as Mind or Hear Us can help with this. Look on it as supplementary first aid training.

    Extract from letter mentioned above:

    “I informed you that the MAP [Mood, Anxiety and Personality] Treatment team service has during the last year been establishing a clear pathway for all patients. The pathway requires there to be a clear purpose for active treatment, with a specific goal and specific interventions. Routine outpatient reviews were no longer offered.”


    “Following our meeting I met with [XXXXX] who informed me that the CIPTS [Croydon Integrated Psychological Therapy Service] service offers the following interventions CBT, Trauma Focussed CBT, CAT, EMDR, Narrative Therapy, Individual and group based psychotherapy. Waiting time for assessment is no more than a couple of months but time between assessment and commencing treatment is anywhere between 112 and 119 weeks.”

    • Katie

      Thank you Lauren for speaking out on the sensitive subject of depression, anxiety and suicide and the value of talking. Perhaps we can now be the voice for Jerome and help others who feel isolated to gain the strength to find hope and as John quite rightly says, the people who are equally willing to listen. Depression Alliance runs a project called ‘Croydon Friends in Need’ where people can meet across Croydon together to connect over similar interests in order to reduce social isolation and promote or maintain recovery from depression. Let’s continue to speak out to diminish the deafening silence surrounding mental health problems so people can access treatment quicker.