Brand new rain falling on old dirty summer follows me on a run through Durham. That fresh smell of earth and gravel and England.
After a nine days on the Battling Suicide Tour my brain is cotton wool. We have met so many people and heard so many stories. A resolution feels so much further away but, in a way, so much closer than it did when we set out 400 miles ago.
The number of people talking is mind blowing.
We have met mental health practitioners and travelling choirs, suicide survivors and the relatives of the dead.
Across this country women are jumping to their deaths from multi-story car parks, men are meeting the trains with arms outstretched, the platforms around them packed with commuters.
“I couldn’t believe no one helped him,” Darrell said in Durham. “My sister said everyone just watched him on the tracks until the train came. Just so passive in letting him die.” Darrell was signing the bus.
“Apparently there was nothing left of him when the train passed. Apart from the commuters obviously.”
Gone too is the boy who fastened his sheets together, wrapped them around his neck and jumped out of his bedroom window. I’ve listened to the tragedy of at least two girls being cut down from trees in the woods. We have been to seven cities and these stories come up every day in different accents.
But is it really the failure of the state, like I wrote here? In some ways yes, but blaming them is such an easy way out. If we can be honest with the problem, like Elisabeth Pisani in the Wisdom of Whores, we can find the solution. And for the record, I think the problem is us. Me and You.
We sit on Instagram posting pictures of the rolling white domes of Santorini. The picture and smile provided by an ex. The smile is long gone, but the idea we have completed another country remains. Images speak a thousand words, but how many are true?
So what is it we’re all spinning? What are we all trying to catch in the web of what we show everyone else?
I’ve heard a lot about the pressures of social media and the fact young people aren’t talking much. In fact, Woman aged 20-24 have never been more at risk from suicide.
Suicides among teenage girls are up 20 percent.
It used to be that spirituality was the big good wolf of England. We were closer to nature, which is proven to help Mental Wellbeing. The idea of the goddess was covered over though, replaced by Mary Magdalene the filthy whore. Slowly the minds of the country were repressed around a cross, but at least people still went looking for god from within. Old mother Mary would pray and open herself up to god. To be closer to her idol she needed spiritual awareness and physical discipline. My Welsh Gran prayed every night. Hands together and kneeling, elbows on worn cotton sheets. Investing her mind into connecting to her idol, to herself, getting closer by trying to understand. She wasn’t a saint, but she could deal with hardship because she knew herself. However, just as Big Religion corporatized spirituality and put everybody off, Big Social Media is corporatizing personality, and it’s destroying us.
Today our idols have changed, but the ritual is the same. We yearn to be Kloser. To emulate false idols. And those that fail feel worthless, because the value of spirituality pails in significance to a pair of Yeezy’s.
Temporary objects and pretend pilgrimages have become the currency to false enlightenment. They are not linked to who we are as people. They are linked to what people think of us as imitations. How well we impersonate those that work less, Jetset and influence us and consume our time. We fag ash keep up with credited materials and cheap flights.
Probably we imitate because it’s the highest form of flattery, then we follow the one commandment of excess.
It makes sense that today’s virtue is the consumption of mass produced materials, because we live within an ideology of mass production. But how much is enough?
In Acomb I played chess with a brilliant young woman. We need more of her.
“I teach kids and they are so innocent and happy,” she said. “But then they get older and society fucks them up. I try to stay off my phone as much as possible to be honest. We all just need to try and be ourselves. Surely that’s enough?”
In Genesis God creates man in the image of himself.
Today we create illusions because we must obtain the image of our gods.
That’s hard when we don’t have money, so we fake it.
We have excommunicated ourselves from the spiritual world. A place where our true selves form. In the last week I have moaned about the lack of spending the government is making towards mental health. The way they are spending also needs to change. Fewer Big Pharma drugs, more spent on building connections and support groups.
Fundamentally I was wrong, though, because 22 middle-aged, white Cabinet Ministers on more than £134,000 a year aren’t going to help connect this country back up.
It’s up to us. To invest our time back into ourselves. Volunteer. Set up groups. Be passionate. Wake up.
Tim has worked for the Samaritans for 40 years. He is grey and has a strange hope about him. “I have heard of people killing themselves on the phone before,” he said. “But Samaritans have 18,000 volunteers nationwide and that’s really how we can change all of this. We cannot simply rely on complaining, Ryan, because you won’t get anywhere doing that. There is a terrific history of this country coming together in times of need, and I think this is one of those times. You may be able to help get people out there again making a difference. We don’t save everyone at the Samaritans, it’s not possible, but we do help an awful lot, and the government have absolutely nothing to do with that. It’s the people.”
You can buy a 5asideCHESS set and get a HELLO Group going yourself. All proceeds go into fighting Loneliness and Social Isolation.