A singer-songwriter who, through debt and depression, was driven to attempt to take his own life eight years ago, is mobilising his musical talent to help stem the rising tide in suicide among young men – the single biggest killer among men under the age of 45.
Ian Lawton, 32, from UpHolland, whose own best friend committed suicide 10 years ago, is organising countrywide music festivals to raise both awareness and money for the national charity CALM, the Campaign Against Living Miserably, that is dedicated to preventing male suicide.
Of the 6,117 suicides in the UK in 2015, a total of 75 percent (4,618) were male. And CALM’s latest research reveals that while 67 percent of women who felt depressed or suicidal, said they had talked about it to someone, 55 percent of men never spoken to anyone.
The charity stresses that men are much more likely than women to feel embarrassed to talk about being depressed and are also much more likely to exhibit risk-taking behaviour – such as drinking heavily, taking drugs, gambling excessively and driving too fast.
As a tribute to his friend, Nick Drinkwater, a 32-year-old father-of-four, Ian held his first music festival earlier this year, raising more than £2,000 for the mental health charity, MIND.
He is now planning bigger events for Manchester and London which he hopes will be become annual events.
The “Listen Up Britain” shows, which will take the form of singer-songwriter contests, will be organised in conjunction with pianist and Australian “Official Top Ten Nights” host Alastair “Ali” Taylor, who runs Suicide Prevention Australia.
He will be flying over from his home in Sydney where he lives with Nick’s widow, Liv.
Nick’s 19-year-old son, Justin, will also be making the trip.
Ian, who lives with his partner Sarah, and 10-month- old son, Ethan, said: “Sadly, Nick never discussed his problem with anyone and no-one knew anything about them until he took his own life. When I attempted suicide eight years ago I was living on my own and did not speak to anyone about my depression either.
“Much of my depression was caused by financial problems. I took out a bank loan and things got quickly out of hand with debts of £15,000 to £20,000 which were crippling and hung over me for three to five years.
“It really horrifies and disgusts me that young people, often as young as 16, teens can find ways of applying online for loan which they can get in just five minutes and then find they have to struggle for a decade or more to pay it pay back.
“Young people invariably have no real understanding about money and, in my view, they should be taught about it in school so that they are less likely to find themselves in financial difficulties when they are older.”
He said it was only through “sheer luck” that he had survived a suicide attempt and was now able to use his “second chance” to raise awareness and money for suicide prevention through his music. He said he was also greatly encouraged by the fact someone with such a high profile as that of Prince Harry, had recently spoken publicly about his own mental health problems making it easier for others to talk to people about their “demons”.
CALM’s fundraising director Anna Jones said: “It’s great that Ian has chosen to support us. CALM would be nothing without the incredible team of supporters we have across the country raising funds for us, spreading our campaign and keeping men alive by talking.”
Peter Harris, founder of CAMIAD, the Campaign for Awareness of Mental Illness Among Debtors, said: “Debt and financial hardship generally is a major cause of depression and, as such, one of the major contributory causes of suicide, especially among young men.
“CAMIAD runs a nationwide training programme designed to equip professionals who come into contact with people in debt to understand how to direct them on for help, counselling or treatment as appropriate.”
Ian has a wide musical spectrum embracing everything from rock to opera, pop to soul.
He started writing lyrics when he was at school and hopes to have his own entertainment agency by the end of this year.
He had made several records, including “Demons”, which he composed shortly after his suicide attempt.