Gay referee Nigel Owens supports anti-suicide campaign
Gay rugby referee Nigel Owens is supporting a Samaritans campaign to prevent male suicides.
Owens has documented his own struggle with depression and admitted he tried to kill himself at the age of 26.
According to the Samaritans, 4,000 men commit suicide every year – three times the number of women who kill themselves.
The charity’s new campaign targets working men aged between 30 and 50, who is says are the most likely to attempt suicide.
Other supporters are former Portsmouth footballer Warren Aspinall and professional boxer Gary McArthur. Amateur boxer and IT contractor David White is the face of the campaign.
Samaritans chief executive Catherine Johnstone said: “The campaign aims to make calling our 24/7 helpline an option. Equally, talking to anyone – family, friends or health professionals – is better than suffering in silence.”
Owens said: “I came from a very old-fashioned and very Welsh home, in a rural part of Wales – a village called Mynydd Cerrig. An only child, my mum was a housewife and my dad worked in the local quarry in the valley. I started playing rugby when I was 10 and by the time I was 16 I was regularly going to watch matches with my father, around the same time as my career in refereeing began.
“I didn’t realise I was gay until I was 19. Overweight and depressed, I developed bulimia. I didn’t want to be this way. I suppose my low self-esteem was because I wasn’t happy with myself.
“My feelings of depression built up and up through my early twenties until at the age of 26, I tried to take my own life. It was a spur of the moment thing. One night I woke up at about 3am, I couldn’t shake this feeling of shame and isolation. Leaving a note to my parents, I picked up a bottle of tablets and a shotgun, and walked out the house. I walked for a few hours looking for a familiar place. I went to the top of a mountain, where I used to go as a child, to see the view for the last time. After taking an overdose I fell into a coma. In the end my parents found my letter and called the police, who put up a helicopter to search for me.
“I woke up in hospital, my parents were crying and all my friends were there. ‘My God, what have I done?’ were the first thoughts to cross my mind. I needed to accept who I was and once I did that I could get on with things.
“Looking back there were people I could and should have turned to, but because I felt so ashamed I never tried. Men from my town would just get on with things; you weren’t even aware men had problems. You would not see a man expressing his feelings. As children we weren’t even aware there were issues men faced.
“Men do find it more difficult to talk about their problems; they feel they have to shoulder things. I think if I had tried to talk to someone on that night, I might not have attempted to take my own life. That’s why this campaign is so important; because it has the power to make men aware help is available and that they should use it.”