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Last Updated: Friday, 15 February 2008, 01:26 GMT
'It all seemed so big I couldn't cope'
Suicide rates among young men in England and Wales are at the lowest for 30 years, researchers have found.

But experts say too many men are still embarrassed about seeking help for depression because of the stigma associated with mental illness.

Duncan Irvine, now aged 59, tried to end his life in his late 20s because he felt he had nowhere to turn.

Duncan Irvine
Duncan now volunteers for the Samaritans
At the time he lived in a small village in the Scottish borders with his mother, who was suffering from mental health problems.

"For around two years, her mental health had deteriorated, although at the time, it was described as 'life changes'," he said.

"She began to hear voices, thought the TV was talking to her, was writing down car numbers and putting them in my pocket, generally acting paranoid and behaving strangely."

He said the local doctor offered no diagnosis or support.

And Duncan was scared that if his mother did not get better she would be locked away.

I didn't know what to do and I felt totally alone

"Living at home was becoming increasingly difficult, not least because it was so hard to know what to expect.

"I didn't know what to do and I felt totally alone."


Duncan was also struggling to come to terms with his sexuality.

"In those days, particularly in small-town Scotland, most people had never heard of the word gay.

"Homosexuality was illegal in Scotland up until the early 1970s, so I felt guilty and ashamed about it all, and was afraid of speaking to anyone."

One day it all got too much. He left the office as normal, then bought a knife and proceeded to cut his wrists.

It didn't work, so he considered throwing himself into the sea.

But then he passed a phone box, saw a Samaritans poster and decided to give them a ring.

"They didn't solve anything, but everything had been going round in my head and it seemed so big I couldn't cope with it.

"Talking through it made me realise maybe there are some things I can do about this a little bit at a time."

Help from the Samaritans gave him the courage to tell his best friend he was gay - a conversation which went well.

And about a year later, he moved to London and got a new job.

He now works as a volunteer at the Samaritans.

"Men are a little more able to speak about their feelings than they used to be, and things like sexuality are all more out in the open.

"But in a lot of ways there's a lot more isolation - you can be lonely in a crowd.

"My advice would be if you know someone who will just listen to you, like a teacher or a friend or the Samaritans, then talk because I believe it helps sort out what's going round in your head."

Suicide rate drops in young men
15 Feb 08 |  Health

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