Rallying cry to support Movember

Steve Smith has supported Movember since 2010.

The simplicity of the tattoo on Steve Smith’s right wrist belies the complex history behind it.

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But it is a quiet nod to how far he has come in battling what he calls his “boxes of demons”.

Separated by a semicolon, the numbers 05 and 14 reference the years when Steve considered taking his own life.

The tattoo serves as a testimony to the power of seeking help and as a personal reminder that his story is not over.

“For me it’s a badge so that when I meet someone and shake someone’s hand it reminds me I am still here,” said Steve, 55.

“I wanted to do it because even in my darkest times I can look at it and say, ‘I am still here’. It’s not a badge of honour. It’s almost a badge of recognition, it’s a talking point.”

Steve, who served in the Army for 16 years, knows the good that can come from talking – but it wasn’t always this way.

Diagnosed with depression, at the age of 40, he had a serious breakdown and attempted to take his own life.

He got help, building himself back up again, but after a further 10 years, including two further severe bouts of depression and anxiety, he finally admitted his feelings and the root causes.

He is acutely aware that putting on a front or using a ‘mask’ when he was ill was a big part of the problem.

“People who suffer like me use ‘masks’ to cover their turmoil,” said Steve.

“People know I work hard and get things done, with a can-do attitude, but all the time behind the mask there was a hidden me, curled up in a ball of turmoil.

“My biggest regret is not dealing with my issues when they first occurred in 2005, I just dusted myself down and went back into work, ignoring my unresolved issues,” said Steve, who is married with two adult children.

Much of his recovery in 2015 involved speaking honestly to his NHS counsellor and family about his difficult childhood and Army service.

When the demons came banging on his door again in 2016, as he was trying to make sense of the loss of friends to suicide, they were no less menacing.

But he was able to take on the demons himself, supported by a family that knew more about him and what to watch out for in his behaviour.

Talking to Steve, who works in cyber security, his commitment to helping others shines through.

And it is this that has fuelled his support of Movember since 2010, raising thousands of pounds and even appearing as a ‘poster boy’ for the annual campaign in Canada.

Now in its 17th year, the Movember campaign encourages people around the world to rally in support of Movember’s cause areas: men’s mental health, suicide prevention, prostate cancer and testicular cancer.

The charity is calling on ‘Mo Bros’ to unite and cultivate a moustache in November to raise funds that aim to prevent men dying too young.

Figures released earlier this year by Movember, as part of a global study carried out by the Social Research Centre, found that 22 per cent of men said their mental health had worsened in the first six weeks of the pandemic, with 29 per cent noting increased feelings of loneliness.

“Not surprisingly, our research confirmed Covid-19 has hit men pretty hard, both in the UK and globally,” said Brendan Maher, Movember’s global director of mental health and suicide prevention.

“The statistics show men are anxious and uncertain about the future.

“Many guys are isolated and disconnected from their usual social support networks. The places men usually go to have those shoulder-to-shoulder conversations with their mates, like going out for a drink or a bite to eat, watching or playing sport, or going to the gym, have been severely reduced.

“We know men aren’t great at asking for or seeking help at the best of times, so we need to do as much as we can to buffer some of the problems they’re facing now. The programmes Movember have delivered this year will make a meaningful impact going forward.”

The charity raises funds to deliver innovative, breakthrough research and support programmes that enable men to live happier, healthier and longer lives.

And you don’t have to cultivate a ‘Mo’ to help. People can Move for Movember: run or walk 60 kilometres over the month; representing the 60 men lost to suicide each hour, every hour across the world.

Alternatively, host a Mo-ment; rally a crew and do something fun, you can always put a virtual spin on your plans, such as an online gaming tournament, Mo Bingo or a virtual trivia night.

Or simply Mo Your Own Way and choose your own adventure challenge.

For more information on taking part go to https://uk.movember.com.

When life is difficult, Samaritans are here – day or night, 365 days a year. You can call them for free on 116 123, email them at [email protected], or visit www.samaritans.org.