Thanet Star


Why do so many men take their own life?

May 13, 2018 in opinion by Matthew Brown

The men in the UK are being killed off not by guns or drugs but by the culture that defines what it means to be a man. This is the hardest blog post I have ever written.

Why are men killing themselves?

It seems to me that the single leading cause of male death is the stigma against men having feelings. Tears, we are told, are for girls. Man up, they say. Stop being a baby, we are told.

How’s that working out for you?

Having feelings is taboo for men. It is about time we changed that. “Cheer up,” is not the answer to complex problems and deep and crushing feelings.

My struggle with pain

MattI’ve struggled with depression at various times in my life. As a teen, the answer was fags, booze, and parties. It didn’t really help.

As I got older and started encounter these things called responsibilities, I just got better at ignoring my feelings. It was not healthy. It did not help. All that did was drain the joy out of my life.

There have been chapters in my life when close friends and loving family would have almost certainly been sympathetic and supporting. Only I lacked any form of language to talk about what I was going through. The best I was able to express was “I’m a bit tired today.”

I did what most men do – I kept my head down and I struggled through things alone.

My daughter died – I was strong for everyone else.

I went through a horrible and painful divorce which could well have had my emotional distance as a factor. Did I talk to anyone? No, of course not. The closest I got was I showed an artist friend an abstract painting I had created as an outlet. We nodded in silent understanding and no more was said. He understood too but neither of us had any lexicon for talking about it.

Man, this article is actually really hard to write. Damn. The part with the statistics was so much easier to write.

Here I am heading for 42 and slap-bang in the centre of the most at-risk group in the UK. A generation with no words to talk about it. No words to use to ask for help. It is literally killing us.

Please reach out

I’ve not written this to gain sympathy. I probably would not know what to do with it anyway. I have written this to show other men my age, that you are not alone.

Having feelings is not a weakness. Feeling sad or low is not a lack of masculinity. Pain is normal but suffering in silence is not.

If you feel like things are hopeless, I beg you not to suffer alone. Reach out and talk to someone. As a person who has struggled with depression on and off for their entire life, I can tell you it does get better. Talking can help – a lot.

The Samaritans’ 24-hour helpline is 08457 909090.

If talking is too difficult, there is online support.

Depression kills

depressionAccording to the ONS, around three-quarters of all suicides in 2016 in the UK were male. In one year 4,508 men killed themselves in the UK. That’s more than 12 deaths every single day.

According to the WHO, there is a killer men only that is significant enough to make the top 10 – suicide. Self-harm accounts for 99.3 per 100,000 population. In the WHO 15 to 29 age bracket, self-harm accounts for more male deaths than any other single cause. Our young men are dying by their own hand. By the time we reach the 30 to 49 age bracket the only reason self-harm is not the biggest killer of men is that heart disease kills more. What this masks is that men aged 30 to 49 are almost twice as likely to kill themselves as men in the lower age bracket. By 50 to 59, self-harm is the 6th leading cause of male deaths. Which at least suggest that those of us that survive that long are likely to carry on surviving.

According to The Samaritans’, the highest suicide rate in the UK was for men aged 40–44. That’s a demographic that I’ve recently moved into. I can tell you, it’s no picnic.

Be a true friend

We men are pre-programmed to always reply “yeah, I’m fine,” or “nothing to grumble about, it could be worse.” You can save a life by taking the time to listen carefully enough and find out if you mate really is okay or just saying they are.

We cannot lift the lid on this silent killer until we men start talking to each other. For those of us that have spent our entire lives not doing that, it is hard. Hard was never a reason not to do something.

We men are taught to value bravery. It is a brave and courageous thing when you admit that we feel weak and broken sometimes. I’m not saying that we need to talk about our feelings all the time; just that it should be okay to talk about them when we need to.

I have been laughed at my entire life for being a bit weird. That’s why I have no problem going first. My name is Matthew and sometimes I feel like my life is a yawning darkness of despair and misery, while other days are quite nice. How are you doing today?

Fermenting workshops with The Nutritious Fig

May 4, 2018 in events by Matthew Brown

The Nutritious Fig – a healthy eating consultancy from Broadstairs – is running a series of workshops on home fermenting.

What is home fermenting?

Home fermenting is a cover-all phrase for a number of different techniques for creating (often very delicious) probiotic and/or preserved foods.

Last year my mum introduced me to water kefir. I like to combine mine with sliced lemons to produce some of the best lemonade you have ever tasted. It is my understanding that the Fermented Drinks workshop will cover water (or possibly milk) kefir.  It’s pretty easy to make and tastes nice. According to what I have read it is also good for you, so there’s that too.

About Wendy

The Nutritious Fig is the consultancy of Wendy. Wendy is a Nutritionist, Food consultant, and Registered Nutritional Therapist with a diploma from “Institute for Optimum Nutrition” (ION) in Richmond, London. She consults from her purpose-built home clinic room in Broadstairs.

Wendy is a member of the British Association of Applied Nutrition and Nutritional Therapy (BANT) and registered with the Complementary and Natural Healthcare Council (CNHC).

Wendy writes a blog about healthy eating. Check out her most recent post – healthy eating on a budget.

May Events with The Nutritious Fig

You can locate upcoming events from The Nutritious Fig on their Facebook events page. I had to do a bit of digging but it looks like these events are priced at £30 each.

Here are May’s events:

Over to you

Have you ever tried your hand at home fermenting? How did you get on? Let me know in the comments below.

Block Brexit sign could lead to eviction (maybe)

May 3, 2018 in politics by Matthew Brown

Activist, Rob Yates, who put up a “Block Brexit” sign across the windows of his Arlington House flat faces eviction if he does not take it down.

The BBC reported four days ago that Yates could be faced with homelessness over his campaign. Reportedly, Yates is refusing to take down the sign because he says that it is “too important”.

Yates’ landlord is Freshwater who – having no dog in this fight at all (so they say) – have taken a stance against his campaign. Right…

According to Kent Live, Yates is not too bothered as no one in Thanet has complained about the sign. The only ones who seem upset are the out of area landlords.

What makes me chuckle (albeit ironically) is that a Freshwater spokesperson complained that the sign was “an eyesore”. How did he manage that with a straight face? The sign hangs in the windows of Arlington House; inarguably Thanet’s ugliest building. If anything, the sign distracts from the eyesore of a tower block. It’s hard to see how it could possibly make it any worse.

BlockBrex.it

The sign, which spells out “BLOCKBREX.IT” doubles as a web link. The site at blockbrex.it is an amusing browser-based game with a strong political message. The message is that we need to rethink leaving the EU. That’s not a coincidence. The site – designed by BRYL.studio – was created to go with the “art installation”.

What’s next for the Block Brexit campaign?

The thing about evictions is that they take time. They also cannot happen without a good reason. It looks like Rob Yates is quite happy to wait to see what grounds Freshwater can cook up before he makes a decision.

Given the strength of feeling that the topic of Brexit has roused and the invested effort in this art project, this is far from the end of the road. I would not be entirely surprised to hear that this issue has been taken to court. Only time will tell.

block brexit

Just how desperate is the council for a “win”?

April 28, 2018 in opinion by Matthew Brown

There can be no doubt by now that Thanet District Council is an organisation in crisis. On top of the largely negative opinion of the council held by the public, the disintegration of the UKIP administration, and some highly questionable budget decisions, Thanet District Council must surely be desperate for a win.

I’m not sure claiming credit for other people’s work is the way to go, however.

To distract us from the trial of a former UKIP councillor’s dodgy dealings, they bring us the “good news” of awards on offer. Awards which I doubt the council did much to actually earn.

The council’s awards in context

Thanet District Council have been short-listed, we are told, for the Winter Shelter and Live Margate projects. To give that some context, they are up for an award because the local religious community took action to protect local homeless people. Apparently, not getting in the way is award-worthy these days? They are also up for an award for finally taking a small amount of action on their actual job – housing people in need.

Should I even need to point out that if the later task had been done properly the former project would not have been needed? Would there have been homeless folks for the local churches to team up and save from the winter cold if the council had been somewhat more prompt in making homes available to start with?

It’s not like the shortage of council housing stock is news. There are whole sections of Thanet targetted by gangs for recruitment because the standard of living is so poor you have to see it to believe it. I’d describe some buildings as slums but that would be underselling it.

Despite the pervasive damp, lack of hot water or heating and decidedly dodgy electrics, these “homes” have many takers. I’ve known vulnerable adults who were dead pleased just to get into such a place. That, in itself, I find deeply disturbing.

Yet, somehow, the council is up for an award and proud of it. How desperate are they for a win?

No easy task

I’ll admit that ensuring that everyone has the possibility of somewhere safe to sleep is no small task. Yet this is exactly what the council is supposed to do. That and moderate planning applications. In fact, the planning approval process is what the council should use to make that happen.

That’s what Section 106 agreements are for. Either the company building the houses agrees to build a number of affordable homes or they pay money so that someone else can. Admittedly, Section 108 payments are often pitiful. That is no fault of the council. I would have expected our council to have always planned to use CPO powers to obtain run-down properties and bring them up to a habitable state. Is that not what S108 money is for?

The Live Margate project (which I seem to recall started under Labour) is a good thing. But it should not be remarkable enough for an award. Projects of like Live Margate should be the least a council is doing.

A far better win

It would not be particularly headline-grabbing but the best win our local authority could obtain would be reporting they have done their job competently. Not just, job done as far as the paperwork is concerned. Job done in a way – no question about it – where objectives are being met.

Far better than being proud of awards for the community solving problems that they should have fixed would be if other authorities could one day use ours as a model for excellence. You may call that pie-in-the-sky. You might be right. But far better to shoot for excellence and only achieve admirably okay than be pleased with barely passable.

I often wonder if standards have been lowered rather than efforts raised. I cannot help but think that our council has, for many years, aimed ever lower in an effort to “win” by hitting a target. What they should be doing is setting the goal much higher. Try harder instead of aim lower.

I can’t believe that there are no local authorities really hitting it out of the park. What harm would there be in modelling what successful councils are doing and copying that? It would be a start, surely?

Harder than it looked

April 19, 2018 in site-news by Matthew Brown

When I started the transition from NucleusCMS to Author Buzz I thought I would be done by now it is harder than it looked.

I think you can see that I am not.

It turns out that moving over ten years of blog from one platform to another platform is a lot of work. So far, I have identified what I need to do. I even have a sort of, kind of, very vague idea how to do it.

The truth is I have a lot more to teach myself. Until I get my head around it all that is going to stop my writing as much as I want to. I admit that the task is harder than I had hoped but not as bad as I feared.

You are welcome to chip in with news leads, opinions, photographs, or just chat with me in our forum. If you want to write for Thanet Star all you need to do is get yourself over to our Author Buzz group and hit join. After that, you can submit something for publication any time you want. Right now, that would really help me out.

Well, now you know the state of play. Like British Rail, I’m getting there (slowly). Unlike Brexit, I knew what I was letting myself in for and it will be worth it.

Be back soon.

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