At his lowest point, he was more afraid of living than dying.

William, who preferred to keep his full name anonymous, said his mental health struggle left him feeling “alone in the world” for much of his life until he found a Men Matter Scotland where he “could speak his mind” for the first time.

“Maybe if I had been able to talk the way I can now forty years ago, my life would have been different,” the 69-year-old said.

“I was sexually abused at a very young age, and I carried an anger that lasted for the rest of my days, and it affected me badly throughout my whole life. It was something I never spoke about until recently.

“I was a very lonely, isolated person from an early age. I didn’t want to let people in and I pushed people away emotionally my whole life.”

The 69-year-old said that while he never spoke about it, he carried his mental health issues with him his entire life.

Speaking about his first suicide attempt, he said: “I wasn’t afraid of dying, I was afraid of living at that point in life.

"My mental health deteriorated from there. I used alcohol and drugs to try and obliterate it.”

During the pandemic, William was moved into temporary accommodation and had been planning a second suicide attempt when he opened up to a housing officer named Gemma.  She brought Men Matter Scotland into his life.

“Since I went there, I have never looked back,” he said. “That first day, getting in the door was horrendous but I was made to feel so welcome in such a short period of time.”

He now visits the mental health hub most days of the week and described it as a place of “no judgement, love and understanding”.

While the most recent figures in Scotland showed a fall in death by suicide in 2021, the tragic number rose for men aged between 65 and 84.

 Samaritans Scotland said the 753 suicide deaths registered last year showed a “huge amount of work needs to be done”.

'You will feel such a relief'

Speaking out for World Suicide Prevention Day, William wants more people to feel comfortable opening up about mental health.

Sharing a similar message is another Scottish man - Thomas Valentine, 22, from Falkirk has become a dedicated campaigner for suicide prevention following his own battle with mental health.

Speaking out on World Suicide Prevention Day, two Scots shared their story in an effort to help others speak out.
Image shows Thomas Valentine (R) and archive image.Supplied

“As much as it is hard to ignore the stigma, speaking out is much better and you will feel such a relief,” Mr Valentine said.

He revealed he had a “number of events going on at home which weren’t ideal to be living in” as a child.

At the age of 12, he was put into foster care until the age of 16. He said: “I was taken away from my parents, my siblings and had very limited contact with family during this period.”

“We did have a younger brother. At the time, he was only a baby when we were taken into foster care.

“We were told at the time that he was being put up for adoption so we weren’t getting to see him again at all.

“What was difficult about it was I think having to continue in life knowing he is still around. He is still alive, but you’ll never get to see him again.

He added: “Those were the main events from my childhood that reflect where my mental health started.”

He first started experiencing anxiety and low mood when he was but “avoided dealing with it” until ten days after his 19th birthday.

“I had attempted to take my own life but thankfully I was obviously dealt with by the emergency services.

“Unfortunately, in January 2020, so I would still be 19, I attempted to take my life again for a second time. I was taken to hospital again by emergency services.”

'I used to keep it to myself all the time'

After a number of months, Mr Valentine was diagnosed with borderline personality disorder (BPD) – a disorder of mood that affects how a person interacts with others.

He said: “Sadly it is one of the most stigmatized mental health conditions because people don't know too much about and there are all these myths around it.

“It's quite a difficult disorder to live with and also the stigma and symptoms that come with it.”

The diagnosis provided him with “comfort” after finally being able to understand his thoughts and feelings.

However, it was not until March last year that he decided to speak up about his mental health.

“Before I used to keep it to myself all the time,” he said. “When I first got diagnosed, I never told anyone except my mom and dad and sisters.”

“I didn’t tell anyone until last March 2021, I had quite a big breakdown at that point.”

Taking to social media, he shared his diagnosis and his struggles and was greeted with a “really positive response”.

Since that moment he has taken up campaigning and volunteering to help others experiencing similar struggles, including as a member of the National Suicide Prevention Leadership Group’s youth advisory branch.

He also uses his own experiences to help others in mental health emergency as part of his role as Scottish Ambulance Service call handler. 

'There is no need to bottle up your feelings'

Reaching out and finding support is “life-changing”, William said as he described the impact Men Matter Scotland had on his life.

He said: “All of a sudden, I found that people did care. I had 24/7 access to support that I had never had in my life.

"If it wasn’t for Men Matter Scotland, I have no two doubts that I wouldn’t be here today. 

“They gave me the ability to live a life outside, to be able to be, not afraid to get out of the house, not to feel ashamed, not to feel guilty and to be able to love again.

While both men struggled to come to terms with a stigma associated with mental health, they would encourage others to speak openly about how they feel.

William described the stigma as a “horrible shame on society” and added:

“People with mental health problems think they have a glass head, and they think everyone can see inside you.

“So they start isolating themselves away from the community until they get to a point where they don’t see a way out.

“It’s important that the message gets out that there is help there. It is so important.”  

Mr Valentine added: “For men in particular mental health can be difficult because you are trying to put on this brave face, I am not allowed to cry or feel rubbish.

“What is really important is that we remind people that that's not the case. Men have feelings too and it is okay to not be okay. There is no need to bottle up your feelings.”

William continued: “For me most of my life I was quite happy if people called me an alcoholic or a drug addict as long as they didn’t mention that I was mentally ill.

“I was quite happy because that stigma never ever leaves you and my mental health will stay with me for the rest of my life. 

“What Men Matter has given to me is the ability to talk, it gave me the ability to lead a normal life, to be able to function in a community without feeling like I stood out.” 

The 69-year-old added that there is more understanding for mental health nowadays than when he was young. 

He said: "There is support. Maybe now there is a bit more understanding about mental health but that understanding hasn’t been there for so long.   

“I know back when I was younger you were just treated as a daftie  

“I have been in mental institutions when I was 20 years of age and it was electric shock treatment they used in those days. It has come a long, long way.

William said he believed places like Men Matter Scotland are actually helpful because they provide a "peer to peer system based on love and understanding".

Of course, there are still days for both of them when it is harder to cope with the emotions and feelings.

Speaking about a recent “bad spell” which saw him admitted to hospital, Mr Valentine said: “I am not there yet. I am not fully recovered. I’m not afraid to say that. It’s nothing to be ashamed of.”

However, this week he was "looking forward" to return back to work for the first time since the hospital admission, stating: "My job is my purpose in life and that's what keeps me going."

The 69-year-old said the Men Matter Scotland offers constant help to his battle with mental health: “Sometimes when I am down, it does happen and life is not always rosy I am afraid, they support me and they herd me up when I cannot stand myself and that is the important part.

“It is not just a one-off thing, it is a whole life-changing thing. 

“The support is there if you reach out for it, which is the hard part of it.


If you are struggling, Samaritans can be reached at 116 123 or email: jo@samaritans.org. 

Alternatively, Scottish Association for Mental Health can be contacted 0344 800 0550 or email info@samh.org.uk

Contact Men Matter Scotland: 0141 944 7900 or contact@menmatterscotland.org