Outgoing mayor: We need to talk about male suicide

Cllr Troy Gallagher pressing for change around awareness of mental health crisis

Friday, 3rd June — By Charlotte Chambers

Islington Mayor Troy Gallagher

Cllr Troy Gallagher

THE outgoing mayor of Islington has said there is still more work to be done to educate people about the connection between mental health and the risk of male suicide – his focus during his year wearing the golden chain.

As we reported last week, Councillor Troy Gallagher handed over the job to Councillor Marian Spall on Thursday.

During his final speech as mayor, and visibly moved by some of the stories he told of his time in office, Cllr Gallagher said: “I have been greatly touched by the many people who have said that the mayoral charities and the mayor regularly talking about and putting the focus on mental health, male suicide and LGBT issues allowed difficult conversations to be had.”

He described to the chamber how one of the highlights of his mayoralty was receiving a Christmas card from a mother who thanked him for opening up the topic of suicide in their house, which allowed them to address their son’s mental health crisis – and “thanking me for giving her the best Christmas present ever: having her son with her and the family for Christmas dinner”.

Speaking to the Tribune this week, Cllr Gallagher said he wanted to use his platform to continue to press for change around awareness of mental health crisis – particularly in men – and how important it was to “remove the silence” around suicide and crisis.

Cllr Gallagher, who lost his cousin to suicide back in Ireland when his cousin was just 18, said: “It’s an important issue to me because we are losing too many young people to suicide and there’s a huge lack of understanding and sweeping it under the carpet and men are the worst offenders because they think it’s a weakness to talk about their problems. We are at risk of losing a whole generation and at some point this has got to stop.”

He added: “I have always felt guilty because when it came to my cousin’s birthday and anniversary we wouldn’t talk about him so as not to upset the family – but I was told a person dies twice when you don’t talk about them. I think people want to be remembered.”

He called on people to understand the importance of offering support to someone in crisis and to “be there” if you have promised you would be: to let someone down at the final hurdle when they have been encouraged to trust you can lead to an escalation of crisis and even suicide.

Cllr Gallagher has lost other friends to suicide as well as a neighbour who lived in his block. With the cost of living crisis, he is worried that suicide will get worse and called on organisations and employers to make changes to their processes around mental health.

He described James’ Place, a charity based in Farringdon that supports men in crisis with immediate access to therapy, as a lifesaver for many – but warned it wasn’t well known that men can walk in off the street to get help. He called on the charity to be given the resources to train the London Ambulance Service and the Whittington Hospital.

“Young men don’t want to take their own lives,” he said. “They have excruciating pain in their heads and the only way they can think to stop is to take their own life to stop the screaming pain in their head – but they pass the pain on to their loved ones. At some point we need to stand up and stop it. People are going to get worse unless we amplify our efforts.”

Related Articles