Category Archives: Suicide

The real meaning of life? It’s 18, not 42…

Not many people are aware of the staggeringly horrific statistics regarding suicide.  18 people make the ultimate statement of how unbearable their life has become by committing suicide, EVERY DAY.

How can any of us feel that this is acceptable? Whether we have been personally affected by losing someone close to us in this terrible way or not, we cannot accept that this is just a fact of life and there’s nothing that can be done about it.

So much can be done, we just have to convince the government that funding and better support for people with mental health issues is crucial.  Let’s get the right support in place, let’s speak to the people who live with mental illness and see what they say would help them.  Let’s stop listening to our learned professors and doctors who have never experienced the desperation associated with wanting to end your own life, talk to us, the real people, with the real knowledge.

Most of the support offered by the current mental health system isn’t help at all, in my experience it’s just an added stress that I can’t cope with.  I’ve asked many people, and from my own experience, what we need is, as Kacie puts it, ‘a hug in a mug’.  A place where we feel safe with people who really understand and know what to say to enable us to feel supported, not a doctor in a clinical room asking us (in a clinical way) if we feel suicidal.

I met with CALM recently and was so impressed at the work they do, targeting exactly the men who are at risk, with very appropriate support that ACTUALLY helps.  We held a charity screening of ‘Kingdom of Us’ in conjunction with CALM and Pulse Films and I sincerely hope we can do more work with them in the future.

PLEASE MAY THERE BE LESS ‘PAULS’ IN THE FUTURE

PLEASE can I ask everyone to sign the petition they are running and then share and share and share, we need a government minister who is responsible for preventing suicide and currently there is no-one.

 

LIFE: What does that mean to you?

If I said to you ‘what is life?’ and you had to say the first thing that came into your head, what would it be?  Do it now…and I would love to know what the first thing you thought was.

That’s why I’m writing this, I’ve just been thinking about life, firstly thinking about Pippa and something I’ve just sent her about BPD that I found online….

Matt here, mental health contributing editor for The Mighty, and it just so happens that my partner lives with BPD. With that in mind, I wanted to highlight some of the things I want my partner to know about my perception of BPD.

So, here it is, my dearest one, and everyone else out there who believes their BPD makes them “manipulative,” “broken” or “unsuitable” to be in a relationship.

I see how it hurts you, not only the stigma of others but the stigma you place on yourself. You believe I see you the way the stigma portrays you: as somebody who can’t possibly be in a loving relationship without your supposed “inherent toxicity” driving it into a smoking crater. But, that’s not the truth at all. I see a woman made raw by her trauma, stripped bare and left to scar without any kind of healing. I see the fear you will be abandoned, and I understand it. You’ve been abandoned so often, made to feel like you’re worth nothing but loneliness. I see you compare yourself to other women you believe are more beautiful and worthy than you, and expect me to do the same.

These things you feel toward yourself are not true. Your worth lies not in your scars, but in how you’ve survived them for so long with no guide to life but yourself. You are worthy, and strong, and fierce, and beautiful, and all of these things and more. You are not broken. You are not evil. You are not “too much” for me, and if anyone else believes you are then they definitely don’t deserve you. You were touched by trauma but not infected by it.

You’ve got this, and I’ll stand by your side the whole way.

She’s just told me that she relates to this totally but life is still hard for her.  Pippa’s story is so incredibly complex, from her autism to her Cerebral Palsy and endless operations, to her Anorexia and Borderline Personality Disorder, from her PTSD from her father’s suicide to the constant Anxiety and depression she fights every day.  She’s been through so much and yet she’s become a strong woman in spite of everything that could have stolen her life before it has really started.  

I’m incredibly proud of Pippa, proud of how far she’s come and how she keeps battling on, proud of how open she was in the film and how many people have contacted us to tell us how much her openness has helped them, it took a lot of courage for her to be so brutally honest.

That’s all very deep and meaningful but ‘life’ means so many things to so many people and, on a lighter note, as I started writing this I accidentally opened the photos on my phone.  So, from mental health to fish!

We have a huge number of fish in our pond, they’ve discovered breeding and now they’re doing a lot of it!  But the ‘Grandaddy’ of them all is a Koi that I’ve had for several years, we don’t see him very often but this morning he was lying half under a Lily pad so I took some photos.  The pictures don’t really give much scale but I can tell you he’s about 12″ long and looks like ‘the monster of the deep’!

NOT THE BEST PHOTO BUT, TRUST ME, HE’S ENORMOUS!

So, the word ‘life’ means something totally different to everyone and sometimes my personal perception changes depending on what’s going on in my life at the time, and sometimes, like today, it has many different meanings all at once.  So, here’s a picture of my fish (and the pot I planted last week that I’ve managed to keep alive so far!)

Why am I so proud of this pot of plants? Anyone who knows me well is aware that I have ‘killing plants’ on my list of hobbies (gardening isn’t my strong point!)

ONE LIFE, LIVE IT!

 

To Die or Not to Die?: Living Life After Near Death

A near death experience is a funny one I’ve found!  I’ve always assumed that my reaction to one would be to embrace life even more than I already do and spend my time treasuring every second.  The reality has been entirely different and I’ve discovered that I’m not the only person, by a long way, who has responded the way I have.

The heart attack I suffered last year should have killed me…no, really!  Had I not already been in hospital at the time I wouldn’t be here, scary stuff, I’m pretty much living on borrowed time.  Borrowed time that I’m definitely grateful for but it’s taken time to recover psychologically, much more than physically.

The light has always been there, I just haven’t been able to see it!

It’s been 9 months now recovering from the actual heart attack and starting to feel physically back to normal actually took about 6 months, but another bout of very serious illness 6 weeks ago really knocked me back again and it’s taken this long to get over that fully.

The truth is though, that for a good 6 months I felt as though there was no point in living any more, having no energy, motivation and stamina made life a pure chore, not the exciting adventure I’ve always felt I was on!  I couldn’t see it changing and the thought of living half a life just wasn’t something I felt I could tolerate.  Was I suicidal?  Yes and no, I would never have actively taken my own life but there were long periods of time when I went to sleep feeling as though it would be better if I didn’t wake up.  My only motivation to keep trying were my children, I know how much they would struggle if anything were to happen to me and I also know how much devastation I would be leaving behind.

Wanting to be here for them kept me going but didn’t alter those deep feelings of hopelessness, the future had disappeared and I felt as though this time it was gone for good.

So, am I ok now?  Yes, for the first time in a very long time I can say that I’m OK, not skipping and dancing, but, OK.  And, you know what, for the time being ‘OK’ is enough.  I still have days when I feel as though someone has turned the light off again but they’re getting fewer and I hope that theme continues.

I’m writing this to help others who have serious health issues understand that it can turn around and it can feel as though life is worth living again, it can just take time.  Sometimes we have to be kind to ourselves and allow the recovery process to happen without beating ourselves up because ‘we should be ok by now’, some recover more quickly, some of us take more time.

Keep going, it’s worth it, and, you’re not alone…..

Film ‘Kingdom of Us’ :- https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=fc8_spETMBY

Book ‘Unravelled’ :- https://smile.amazon.co.uk/Unravelled-inspirational-story-journey-darkness-ebook/dp/B00L1ENC0O/ref=smi_www_rco2_go_smi_9905632998?_encoding=UTF8&ie=UTF8&qid=1528106227&sr=8-1

TED Talk :- https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Xts1F-PoUNA

 

Domestic Abuse: 4 reasons why we stay

I was watching a documentary the other night about a lady who was in an abusive relationship which ended in her being set on fire by her partner and dying.  A horrific story, but it set me thinking…  I lived in an abusive relationship, it was just more subtle and very insidious, some physical abuse but mostly mental and controlling.  The law now recognises this type of abuse as ‘coercive control‘ and can carry a sentence of up to five years imprisonment.  It’s also very much a gender biased form of abuse with most abusers being male.  I felt it would be useful to analyse the reasons why I stayed with Paul for so long, and having done so, I also realise that the reasons are pretty much the same regardless of the type of abuse.  So, for those of you who cannot begin to get your head around ‘why we stay’, maybe this will help you to understand how powerless you can feel in these relationships and how staying can feel like the easier option.

 

1. Fear

This is probably the biggest and most chilling reason why so many women stay in an abusive relationship and the fear is very real on a number of different levels.  There may be children involved in which case the fear of not being able to look after them adequately is very hard to overcome.  Another, more sinister fear is of your partner coming after you and hurting you, either physically or in any other way, this can be paralysing.  There is also the fear that life will actually become worse if you leave because of your partners inability to let go. Many women from abusive relationships end up being stalked by their partner and the consequences can be deadly.

 

2.  Love:-

It’s easy for onlookers to forget that we fell in love with these people, that they were wonderful when we first met them and we wanted to spend the rest of our lives with them, that is, the person we initially fell in love with.  When you’re head over heels in love you don’t see, or ignore, the negative aspects of your partner, you’re actually so blindly in love that it’s almost impossible to believe what you subconsciously suspect.  And hindsight is a very wonderful thing that we are deprived of at the actual time we need it!  I know, I look back now and realise that the writing was on the wall from very early on in our relationship but I blamed myself for causing his behaviour, vowing to become ‘better’.

 

3. Isolation:-

Sadly, in a lot of cases, the changes happen slowly and imperceptibly, distancing you from your family,  restricting your access to friends for what always seem to be perfectly good reasons and the anger if your partner suspects you may have confided in someone, always preventing you from doing just that.  The isolation builds until there is no-one left that you are close enough with to be able to ask for help, being totally alone makes the prospect of leaving even harder to contemplate.  Another aspect of this type of abuse is the constant reinforcement of your belief that it actually is all your fault and you’re the one who is lacking.  I was brainwashed over many years to believe that I was the one who was mentally ill due to my childhood experiences and my mother dying when I was a teenager, eventually I believed it wholeheartedly.  It was only a few years before Paul’s death that I ‘woke up’ and saw the reality, by that time I had 7 children, all with special needs, and leaving was going to be painfully slow and also a mammoth task, but do it I must.

 

4. Hope:-

Maybe the most paralysing of all, the constant hope that the person you fell in love with will suddenly return and the sheer bliss that you experienced in those early days will be here again.  Deluded? Yes, of course, but by the time you realise that you’re deluded the rest of the damage has already been done.

My book ‘Unravelled‘ was published a few years ago and since then I’ve received a number of messages for women telling that they read the book, realised that they were living in a coercively controlling relationship and found the strength to leave.  I feel horribly responsible, but, fortunately, all of these stories had a happy ending with the women involved finding true love with a new partner.  Leaving was incredibly hard for all of them but it ended up being the right thing to do.

Anyone who has seen ‘Kingdom of Us‘  will know that one of Paul’s considered plans was murder/suicide, we found a notepad after his death which outlined in detail how he would kill all of the children in front of me, then me and then himself.  It was terrifying to realise how close we had potentially come to such an appalling end and really highlights just how mentally ill Paul actually was.

We were lucky, Paul didn’t carry out his plan and chose instead to end his own life, a tragedy in itself, but I’m thankful that the children have had the opportunity of living their lives free from fear.  I guess there was never going to be a perfect ending within my relationship with Paul, it was so flawed in so many ways but here we are, still standing and living the best lives we can with hope in our hearts.  It fills me with joy to watch my beautiful children living full lives and working towards their dreams, dreams that could so easily have been snatched away, I have so much to be grateful for…

Kingdom of Us: Searching questions on Woman’s Hour by Jane Garvey

BIFA’s!

Sunday night saw the entire Shanks family attending the BIFA’s, a glittering awards ceremony celebrating all that is best in the world of British Independent Film Making.  It was all very surreal, walking down the red carpet and having dozens of photographers taking pictures and shouting directions to us to look this way and that, and stand here and there, all very confusing!

Party time at the BIFA’s!

It was a fabulous night and we had the best time, we didn’t win Best Documentary but just being nominated and being in the top 5 was accolade enough when you consider how many documentaries were submitted.  It was an experience we will never forget and a huge ‘Thank You’ to Netflix for enabling us to be there.

Woman’s Hour

The morning after saw Lucy, Julia, James and I plus 2 babies (Lucy’s and Julia’s) at Broadcasting House for Woman’s Hour!  It was my first time on Woman’s Hour and very exciting, I’d been really looking forward to it.  It was Jane Garvey, a tough presenter and she had some pretty hard-hitting questions to ask.

‘The Gang’ at Woman’s Hour!

Having covered the back story to the film she mentioned that she had felt uncomfortable at watching parts of the film, as though she was intruding into our lives.  She’s the first person to say this, most people feel that whilst the film is very intimate and raw, the way it was filmed meant they didn’t feel as though they were intruding.  We wanted the film to be extremely honest and hard-hitting, we wanted to start conversations around the issues raised in the film, and you can’t accomplish that unless people feel strongly in some way when watching it.

She also asked Lucy whether she ever felt as though she was intruding too much.

Lucy answered by telling Jane that she knew not everything would end up in the final cut and as we had total control over the finished film she knew that some of the hardest things may never be broadcast.  She also said that she felt it was important that some of the hardest moments be caught on camera as they were important to the essence of the film.  We had total faith in Lucy and never had any reason to question her integrity.

Jane then asked me how many times I asked Lucy to put the camera down and ‘push off’?

The answer to that one is NEVER!  I knew, as Lucy did, that we had total control over the final cut and felt that everything should be filmed so that we had the choice.

The truth of it is that I never asked Lucy to stop, but there was one occasion when I told her to carry on and she decided herself to put the camera down.  That was a huge moment for us, we knew then that we could trust Lucy implicitly, she has become one of our closest friends over the years and we love her dearly.

Jane also asked whether it was right of me to put the children through making the film, and was it too much for them now that it’s out, in view of how much they’ve already been through?

I agonised over this one for the entire 4 years of making the film, but the children kept reassuring me that they wanted to do it, and they knew they would have the opportunity to cut anything out of the final edit if they didn’t feel comfortable with it.  They felt safe in Lucy’s very capable and compassionate hands and were always passionate about the whole thing being totally ‘real’.

Do they regret making it now that it’s available to the entire world?

No, if anything they are even happier about the project now that it’s out.  We’ve been swamped with messages from all over the planet thanking us for making such an honest film about the realities of the subjects it covers.  The people who’ve watched it say they feel reassured that they’re not the only ones experiencing some of the issues raised and they now understand people they are close to much better.

‘Besmirched’

Jane also made the statement that she felt ‘besmirched’ after watching the film.  This seemed to be a slightly unusual way of describing her feelings and very personal to her.  Besmirched means:-

to detract from the honour or luster of: to besmirch someone’s good name.

We all made the film in good faith, hoping that it may help some people in some ways.  Our intentions were honourable, we had no desire to make people feel ‘dirty’ in any way but we  were quite happy for people to feel uncomfortable.  We need our boundaries to be pushed sometimes in order to make us think in a bit more depth about certain things and I believe ‘Kingdom of Us’ does that.

 

 

The interview is here…

 

Numerous people have also messaged us to tell us that they were contemplating taking their own lives but have now changed their minds because they realise the terrible impact on the people they would leave behind.  That is a powerful reason for being so happy that we saw the project through to its conclusion.

And it does cover all kinds of things that we feel uncomfortable with, but knowing that people can relate to it and are potentially being helped makes that pale into insignificance.  If a little discomfort for us can change a few things then it’s all worthwhile.

Without controversy and discomfort there is no debate, and there must be conversation around subjects that make us uncomfortable.  

Autism: 4 things I believe contribute to the tragically high Suicide rate in Autistic people

Following on from the piece we did recently for ITV News regarding Autism and suicide, I think the facts and statistics speak for themselves, 66% of people on the spectrum have contemplated suicide, that is an alarming figure.

We can all do our part in giving people a hand up

 

What we don’t yet fully understand is why the actual suicide rate is so high within the neurodivergent population, although I have a few theories of my own.

  1. Having watched my own children grow up with the challenges that autism can create, and knowing the degree of mental health difficulties they ALL face, I believe that a proportion of their struggles relate directly to the everyday challenges they have to deal with just having to understand, and be understood, in a world that they find hard to relate to.  Autism can’t be ‘seen’ so it’s very difficult for ‘neurotypical’ (I hate that word, what is ‘Neurotypical’ anyway?) people to know that they may be having difficulty in communicating.
  2. A large number of people on the spectrum also have to contend with various sensory issues, constantly.  It may be a sensitivity to sounds, smells, textures, the list is a very long one.  What most of us don’t understand is that these sensitivities are not just irritating, the offending issue actually creates very real, agonising pain.  My children have a variety of sensory challenges and I’ve witnessed them contort with pain at  various inputs that they can’t cope with.  While they are out in the wide world they have no way of controlling their environment so these problems can ambush them at any moment.
  3. Another challenge is that people on the spectrum need to know what’s going to happen next.  They visualise everything in their heads, the problems occur when the reality doesn’t match their expectations, but, when does life ever pan out exactly the way we want it to?  Most of us adapt readily to the vagaries of life, imagine not being able to do that?
  4. Another huge challenge for people on the spectrum is actually accessing the help they need.  So many conventional therapies don’t work for them so even if they manage to ask for help in the first place, the likelihood of it helping them in real terms is very slim.  Fortunately, Autistica is doing very real research with people on the spectrum to find strategies that actually help, long may they keep up the good work.

I’ve only briefly listed a few challenges above, but try for a moment to imagine living in a world where there are so many variables that you find so unmanageable that your life is lived at the highest end of anxiety at all times?  We all experience stress, unfortunately, autistic people very often experience it on a totally different level, is it any wonder then that they often feel that they can’t cope any more?

The proportion of people living in our society with neurodivergent brains is actually very high, we need to be doing a lot more to create environments that they feel comfortable with.  A quiet room in shopping centres, colleges etc…would go a long way towards offering a calm space to collect oneself before trying to continue.

Autistica are an amazing charity that fund research into ways to help people on the spectrum manage anxiety and understand their mental health challenges along with a huge amount of other very important research.  If you would like to get involved with helping them you can join their ‘DISCOVER’ network to help them work with even more people so they can gain more insight, they already have 5000 people involved but the more the better.

We shouldn’t be losing lives to suicide and so much more needs to be done to help, let’s all join the army and shout for change….

‘Kingdom of Us’: Can a film really save lives?

 

Kingdom of Us

Life throws all kinds of stuff at us, some good, some bad, some absolutely earth shattering.    Paul’s suicide was one of those earth shattering events that left myself and my children in tatters.  10 years after the event and we’re still here, still in one piece and, remarkably, moving forward in spite of the fact that life just keeps giving….more shit that is!

I need to write a second book in order to tell the story properly (something I’m planning to do) but suffice it to say that the proverbial ‘icing on the cake’ was my heart attack 11 weeks ago, a defining moment indeed!

But in amongst all of the interesting events that have littered our lives over the last few years we made ‘Kingdom of Us’ with the incredibly talented Lucy Cohen.  Lucy is one of those people you meet once in a lifetime, someone who is so sensitive, empathetic, insightful to the point of appearing to be telepathic and so caring that she almost seems to be from a higher plane.

We met Lucy via ‘Unravelled’, the book I wrote a few years ago, in a roundabout way.  My literary agent, Andrew Lownie, introduced me to an agency called ‘Find a TV Expert’, through this agency a lady called Dee Kahlon found my profile and got in touch.  We met with her and she wanted to make a TV documentary about autism and introduced us to her preferred Director, Lucy.

It felt as though it was meant to be, love at first sight actually!  We adored Lucy and quickly came to trust her implicitly and we started filming.  The road to completing the film was anything but smooth and there were times when we all kept filming, really not knowing why.  There were no backers, no production company, no-one interested in the project which had long ceased to be a documentary about autism and had become, well, we didn’t really know what it was going to become.

And then through Lucy’s hard work and persistence a production company called Pulse became involved, they believed in the film and Lucy.  Funding came along a few months later and Lucy started to get the feel of what the final film would be.

It’s winning awards!

Four years after starting the whole process and 18 months of editing later and we have the finished article.  The film premiered at the London Film Festival, which was awesome and it won the Grierson Award for best documentary, unbelievable!

Now it’s been nominated for a BIFA (British Independent Film Awards) and we’re off to London on Sunday for the ceremony.  Who knows if the film will win but just to be nominated is too incredible for words, who knows what next?

In amongst all of this, Netflix became interested in the film long before the final edit was complete and snapped it up.  We were overjoyed, being available on Netflix meant that the film would be easily accessible globally and we hoped that it might just change some perceptions and maybe change a few lives.  The day of the release was a tense one for us, we had no idea how the film was going to be received, it could have gone either way.

But, we have been blown away by the response from people all over the world since it’s release on the 13th October.  We have received hundreds of messages from people thanking us for making the film and allowing people into our lives, and messages like the ones below have been so humbling but also, so awesome.

 

“Wow, what an amazing documentary. I’m in a real shitty place at the minute you and your family have really made me realise the possible devastation certain decisions could possibly have on others x”

 

“I watched your documentary today I just want to thank you. I have had suicidal thoughts lately & seeing the impact it has on children has made me stop”

 

These are excerpts from messages we’ve received and there have been so many others along the same lines.  We made the film in the hope that it might make a difference, we didn’t expect this but comments like these make the whole, difficult, four year process so incredibly worthwhile.

Thank goodness Lucy believed in the project and put everything into it for four years.

Thank goodness we all kept believing in her.

Thank goodness all the other people who became involved in the project believed in it as well.

We all hope that the film will be seen by as many people as possible and continue to make people think twice about mental health, autism and suicide

 

 

Kingdom of Us

After nearly four years of filming and production, the moment we’ve been waiting for is finally here!  It’s with a tiny bit of apprehension and a huge amount of excitement that we look forward to the World Premiere at the British Film Festival on the 7th October of our film about our journey over the last few years since Paul’s suicide.


Excitement because it’s been SUCH a long time in the making, and a tiny bit of apprehension because it’s such an intensely personal and real film which shows us ‘warts and all’.

We insisted from the very beginning that the film be totally real, no staging, no pretending to be something we’re not or vice versa, and that’s what it is…just us…as we are in real life.

We’re all so happy with the finished film and for that we have to thank the amazing Lucy Cohen (Director), not only a brilliant Director but an awesome person as well, we all love her dearly and really hope that the film may help in some way, if it touches one person it will have been worth every moment of the last four years.

Film trailer…

 

Tickets on sale here from 14/9/17

My story: Love your Scars

I’ve joined Spaghetti Agencies ‘Summer Camp’, absolutely brilliant, I’ve learnt so much from it, so a huge thanks to Todd and Jo!  One of the things Todd has pointed out (and he’s so right to do so!) is that people buy from people, therefore, people are interested to know how it all started, what was it that set you on your road in business or whatever your life’s mission is.

Summer Camp!  Read my blog ‘5 Reasons for loving the gift of social media!’.

This set me thinking, I write a huge amount about all sorts of things but I’ve never actually written about how I came to be walking the path I’m currently on.  Tracing the beginnings of something can be tricky, you can think it’s one thing and then realise that something actually came before that, if you really get your thinking cap on you can often trace something right back to your childhood and one single defining moment!

Sadly I can’t go back that far but it’s pretty cool if you can!  No, my journey began with a tragedy, followed by a sickening scenario that left my, already traumatised children, reeling from its impact.  I will explain.

Pippa was 6 and Jamie 16 when Paul died

My husband committed suicide, and in these circumstances there is a post-mortem and an inquest to establish cause of death.  An inquest can take many months to be heard, as was the case with Paul’s, it was five months after the event when I found myself at the Town Hall in Leamington with a room full of people, some of whom I didn’t know.  The Coroner decided that Paul’s death was, indeed, suicide, but not before he’d gone through the pathologists report in great detail, talking about some of the things I had decided, at that time, the children didn’t need to know.  They were all still very young and the gorier details could wait until they were old enough to handle them, if ever.

In happier times…..

An inquest is always a harrowing experience, opening up wounds that have barely started to heal anyway and making everything feel as raw as the day it happened.  But, it had been hanging over me for months, so, at least I could heave a sign of relief that it was finally over and done with, or so I thought.

A week or so later a friend rang me to ask if I had read the local paper, I responded no and she suggested I buy a copy as the inquest had been covered by reporters who had attended (the unknown people) and she was concerned at the content.  When I read the reports, the way it was written reduced me to tears of despair, frustration, anger and anxiety about how it would affect the children.  The journalists had seen fit to report the findings in the minutest detail and in the most sensational way.

I was devastated but also galvanised into action when the children found themselves on the receiving end of a stream of bullying at their various schools as the story spread like ‘wildfire’ throughout the community.  But, almost worse than that, they had been exposed to traumatic details of the event that caused them even more pain and left them asking me why I had withheld the truth (the autistic mind needs to know all of the facts and excluding certain details had left them doubting me, however good my intentions), all this at a time when I was the only person they had in the world and I needed them to trust that I would be their rock.

Anxious, raw and angry I contacted the Press Association with a complaint about the way the inquest had been reported and, to cut a long story short, they agreed with my complaint.  The relevant papers had to print an apology and I got to choose where in the paper it should be.  A small victory, and not helpful to us, but maybe, just maybe, they would think twice before covering such a traumatic event in the same way, maybe someone else would be spared the pain we’d been subjected to.

That piece in the local paper and the subsequent apology was picked up by the national press and several newspaper and magazine pieces followed, I wanted to raise awareness of how that report had affected the children and why people need to be so much more aware of how different people are affected in different ways by such events.

This led to my Literary Agent finding my story online and him asking me to write the book which led to another person finding me through an agency website called ‘Find a TV Expert’ and the idea of the film was born.  As time has gone on I’ve done many TV, radio and press pieces all aimed at the same outcome, better awareness of Autism and mental health issues and I now speak at conferences and events far and wide.

For the first time in my life I’m actually doing what I want to do and really enjoying it, so, from tragedy sprang a purpose and a cause that needs to be fought by all, if I can spread the word a little faster and to a wider audience through everything I do, that’s great!

My favourite saying is ‘SCARS REMIND US WHERE WE’VE BEEN, THEY DON’T HAVE TO DICTATE WHERE WE’RE GOING’and this is the philosophy I’ve tried to bring my children up with.  Life will leave you with plenty of scars, both physically and mentally, but they can be used to hold you back or propel you forward….let it be the latter.

 

My TED Talk:  https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Xts1F-PoUNA

My book ‘Unravelled’:  https://www.amazon.co.uk/Unravelled-inspirational-story-journey-darkness-ebook/dp/B00L1ENC0O/ref=tmm_kin_swatch_0?_encoding=UTF8&qid=1500593442&sr=8-1

Website:  http://www.vikieshanks.com

 

 

 

Why women’s attitude to men needs to change

For many men, depression and emasculation are synergistic. Understanding this is critical to recovery. What I have learned in my journey is that feelings of weakness about my masculinity can lead to depression, while at the same time, depression can lead to feelings of emasculation.” Quote from an article by Mike Veny, leading Mental Health Speaker from the USA  Read Mikes article here

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Mike Veny, top USA mental health speaker

Why do men feel emasculated?

We are constantly hearing news that more and more men are taking their own lives as did my own husband, but why?  I believe there are many reasons but the issue is so much more complex than merely the fact that men are less likely to seek help when it comes to their mental health.  So, what’s the reality?  Are more men struggling with their mental health, is the media picking up on more stories so we are more aware or are the pressures of modern society playing a part?  I’m convinced that all of these are factors but I don’t believe it makes up the whole picture.

I’ve been conducting my own little case studies over the last 10 years or so, watching with great interest how my daughters boyfriends fare in their very modern relationships.  I’ve observed a number of challenges that both women and men are having in the struggle to evolve very quickly into, modern men and women.  Whilst the scientific community battle out the finer points of what our lineage may be, the general consensus seems to be that, as a species, we are at least 100,000 years old, that’s a whole lot of evolving we’ve done!  The speed with which we are now expected to keep up is simply unreasonable.  Herein lies the core of the problem I believe.

Women were treated as the weaker sex for a reason

Nowadays we find it abhorrent to learn of the way women have been treated historically, but whilst there have been some unspeakable atrocities, there were actually some excellent reasons why women were treated as the weaker sex.  Putting abuse to one side (that’s still very much a reality in the 21st century), our ancestors lived by the sword, and prior to that, by the club!  The truth of the matter is that women are not, generally, as physically strong as men, therefore, in a society where everything had to be done by hand with little or no tools, it made total common sense that the women would take on the gentler tasks and men would chase after Antelope.  It was merely a case of survival, nothing to do with political correctness, and it was because of this that we evolved in the way we did.

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We’ve come so far, let’s not go backwards now!

Where women are stronger

We can’t actually know how cavemen treated the women of the tribe but there are a lot of primitive tribes that still exist in remote areas where the women are in charge!  Therefore, it’s not beyond the realms of imagination to assume that cavemen treated the women with respect for the essential role they played within their society.  The men were stronger and probably ran faster, didn’t have the debilitating role of child-bearing and were far better equipped for running through the undergrowth as they had tougher skin.  For this reason, men today, still have more tunnel vision than women in order to be able to focus more effectively on their prey, and women’s peripheral scope is much wider than a mans, all the better for spotting the Sabre Tooth Tiger lurking on the outskirts of the camp!  Evolution has played a huge role in many other aspects involving the different sexes, far too complex to go into here, but, let’s accept and know that we are different and in many critical ways, women are indeed stronger than men!

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Isn’t teamwork better?

 Are women better or worse than men?

Well…that’s about the most stupid question that could ever be asked!  I was talking to my son Osborn a few days ago and he was pondering the fact that men and women are so different that we could almost be different species, I wholeheartedly agreed with him!  Women scream for equality but actually, equality doesn’t mean justice!

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Women should shouting out for justice, men and women are not equal in all areas, we actually carry very different strengths and society would work much better if we all accepted that it would be much more effective if we played to our strengths.  Am I suggesting that women get back in the kitchen?  ABSOLUTELY NOT!  What I am suggesting is what I’ve been banging on about for years, EVERY person should be playing to their strengths, and I’m talking about men, women, neurodivergent people, people with physical challenges etc…EVERYONE!

It’s not about better or worse!

When it comes to talking about people, the words better or worse should never enter into the conversation, no person on this planet is better or worse than anyone else, it’s about our differences and playing to our own individual strengths.  The word ‘disabled’ is bandied around constantly, disabled actually means ‘to render useless’, and yet, I’ve never met a ‘useless’ disabled person, differently abled, yes, not disabled.  The same principle should apply to the sexes, we are differently abled and instead of trying to compete with men, we should be working side by side, as a team, utilising our greatest strengths to get the job done better.  Justice, not equality.  And, of course, those wishing to pursue ‘non gender typical’ jobs must be at liberty to do so, and more than that, welcomed into their sphere of work wholeheartedly.  If they’re pursuing their dream job, you can bet your bottom dollar that they’re be bloody good at it!

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AMEN!

 Where does this leave us?

Going back to the start of this article, I believe all of the above is relevant in terms of the confusion men are experiencing these days.  Their traditional roles as hunter, bread-winner, alpha protector have been turned on their heads, my observations over the years have shown me that guys these days have absolutely no idea what or who they are supposed to be.  I’ve entered into long conversations with many men on the subject, who all confirm what I already suspected, they don’t know what their role is anymore.  All of them have experienced women growling at them when they’ve opened a door for them, but isn’t this just a societal nicety whether carried out by either sex?  However, the upshot of this rejection is that men no longer dare to act in a chivalrous way, but they can’t win, women then accuse them of behaving like ‘cavemen’!  Thinking back over the years I wonder when the ridicule of men by women actually became the norm?  We’ve gone way beyond wanting equality, or justice, we now want it all, and so many women now view men as walking sperm banks and little more.  We have one planet to share, it doesn’t take an enormous amount of common sense to accept that we need to work together, in harmony, in order to achieve the best reality for every person who lives on our precious, but fragile, lump of rock.

We all need a sense of purpose

Everyone needs a sense of purpose, it’s in our make-up as human beings.  The media and society have insidiously sent out a message to the male of our species that he is redundant, no longer necessary…after all, we have sperm banks.  50% of our population shouldn’t be experiencing a feeling that the ever-growing reality is that they no longer have a role to play, women can do it all by themselves!  Or can we?  And is it any wonder that so many men are experiencing a sense of uselessness?  Some men now try to assert their status in very negative ways, others just hide away and may become one of the suicide statistics that are so readily available in the media.

From my own very personal point of view I’ve never felt inferior to anyone, is it that I have a good self-esteem?  No, I don’t have a great self-esteem and it’s nothing to do with self-esteem, confidence or anything else, it’s just that I’ve never focused on whether a person is male or female, black or white, Christian or Muslim.  Their gender, ethnicity etc…matters not one jot, I’m interested in the person, nothing else.  I think of we all focused less on the minutiae of each human being and reached out to each person as an individual the world would be a much better place.  Discuss please?!

Do read Mike’s article for a man’s perspective.

My TED talk is here on much the same subject:-