First they came for the Communists
And I did not speak out
Because I was not a Communist
Then they came for the Socialists
And I did not speak out
Because I was not a Socialist
Then they came for the trade unionists
And I did not speak out
Because I was not a trade unionist
Then they came for the Jews
And I did not speak out
Because I was not a Jew
Then they came for me
And there was no one left
To speak out for me
Pastor Martin Niemoller
Why did I choose that poem? It was written about the Nazi Party in Germany after all over half a century ago, what possible relevance can it have today to our attempts to raise funds to help fight male depression.
Well here’s the thing, you can look at most charities and think “well I’m never going to need the help of that charity”, you can say you’ll never get cancer because you don’t smoke or drink and live only on berries foraged in virgin rain forests by Belgian monks.
You can say you will never need help from addiction charities because you don’t gamble or do drugs.
You can rationalise that you will never need the help of any charity buy you can NEVER say that you won’t need help from a charity which works with people with depression.
The problem is that depression doesn’t care who you are, what your circumstances are, how you live your life, what your job, income, orientation or social class is. It is an incredibly politically correct disease, it discriminates against no one, it is as happy to strike down a street sweeper as it is to strike down a captain of industry. You can run, you can pull the covers over your head, stick your fingers in your ears and shout “I’m not listening” until you’re voice is hoarse, it simply doesn’t give a fuck. If it wants you it will take you and if it does who will help you?
Charities that work with depression are at the back of the queue when it comes to any kind of funding or any kind of press coverage because people simply don’t want to speak out about depression.
I contacted an editor of a national newspaper recently to ask for some press coverage for Chefs For CALM and the response I got was “as a story it doesn’t really jump out at me”. I pointed out that 9 men in England and Wales take their own lives every day but still that didn’t help make the story “jump out” at them. Maybe I could arrange for all 9 to come to London and commit suicide on their desk, would that grab a few lousy fucking column inches. Don’t think this is simply a rant at one idiot print editor, I contacted over 20 radio shows and stations and asked for them to help promote the charity dinner, want to know how many of them even responded, none, not one.
You will get the same story from John Comyn, who is project managing the dinner. He has spoken to various companies about obtaining help or support from them and again got the same response of strained sympathy and mutterings of apology.
Maybe it’s because people think that these helplines don’t really work that it would just be throwing away money and would make little difference. Well they do work, CALM have proved this in Merseyside, the one area of the country that they have managed to successfully operate a full time help line, where young male suicides have dropped by around half.
Every week I speak to 2 women who in their own way drive us forward to make this dinner a success and to make a difference in the lives of people with depression. Jane Powell is the founder of CALM, the person who manages, under incredibly budget restraints to keep the charity going and helping people. Almost without fail every time I talk to or meet Jane she has just come from counselling a family who have just lost a son to suicide. The toll this must take is almost unimaginable, to every day feel the sheer weight of grief of these families is something that I know I myself could never handle. I don’t want to call the work they do “thankless” but it’s not like the people who’s lives their helplines save pop by the office with some Milktray and a bottle of Cava. They simply carry on with their lives, in many cases never opening up to those close to them about what they went to or how deep their depression was. The people at CALM simply hope that the person stopped calling because they had been helped and they move on to the next call and the next person in desperate need of their services. Through Chefs For CALM we want to raise the money needed for them to employ more counsellors to man their helplines full time and save more lives.
The other woman is Patti Boyle, Kevin Boyle’s Mum. We had never spoken before her son’s death, she in fact contacted myself and John through replying to an earlier blog post. The more I speak to Patti the more I wish I had the chance to know Kevin and the more I want to help her bring some good about from her son’s tragic death. She talks about Kevin’s dream of having an allotment and cafe where people could come by and do a little work in return for a nice meal or some produce to take home but that would also function as a focal centre for support not just for people with depression but an entire community. Somewhere that they could speak to others struggling with the illness, or simply be around other people and not feel so alone not feel like there was no where for them to turn for help or no one to turn to. Patti is driven by the wish to stop other mothers going through the tragedy that her and her family have gone through, she is attempting to have parliament close down websites that sell these so called “suicide kits”. When she speaks about this fight you can hear an unmistakable determination in her voice but that yields to a mother’s pride when she talks about fulfilling Kevin’s dream of an allotment to help others who are struggling with the same grave illness that he fought so bravely for almost a decade before it finally overwhelmed him and took him from his family. Part of the money raised at the Chefs For CALM dinner will go toward the memorial fund set up in Kevin’s memory and will hopefully help make his dream a reality.
The Chefs For CALM dinner will take place on the 28th of May at Floridita in London’s Soho. It will be an evening where guests are treated to a one off spectacular menu cooked by some of the finest chefs in the UK, there every need will be catered for by a truly exceptional front of house team from some of London’s best restaurants. As always in these cases it’s these people who are the first to answer the call. Almost every night in London there are charity dinners and fund raising galas where hospitality industry staff give their time for free for worthy causes, this time they have a chance to give something back to their own industry.
We have had offers of help from companies who were brave enough to support a cause like depression without the irrational fear that it would be bad for their brand to be associated with suicide. This help has come from the people behind these companies who have worked with the hospitality industry for years and have seen the toll it can take on people, Justin Preston of Allens of Mayfair told me that he had seen up close how the stresses of the job effected chefs before telling me simply to let him know what we needed and he would sort it out, the same is true of Jess Latchford from Secretts Direct and Conor Tait from Meantime Brewery amongst others.
We have agreed a deal with Channel 4 to build a documentary around the subject of depression within the hospitality industry which will air during mental health week in July. The 1 hour piece will focus on the experiences that some chefs have had with depression and the attempts of these chefs and the others involved in the dinner to make a difference in the lives of others who are affected by the illness.
We are of the belief that if we are to pull this off we will have to do so without the aid of the mainstream media who simply don’t want to tackle the subject, so as always we turn to Twitter as our means of starting the quiet revolution, we rely on you to make noise and affect conciousness and force editors and news makers to look at this subject and shine a spotlight on it. Depression thrives in darkness, it envelops its victims and stifles their screams for help, those not suffering from it themselves rush into the light away from the darkness for fear they too will be infected, dragged down, suffocated under the weight of depression.
But if people refuse to shine a light on to depression, retreating and retreating instead to the centre of the light then when depression finally does come who will be left to protect them from the darkness?
If you wont speak out when depression comes for others
Who will be left to speak out when depression comes for you?