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Reflecting on Greg Boyed’s tragic passing and the mental health of men in their 40s

By   /  August 23, 2018  /  26 Comments

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I think we fail to acknowledge the stresses and depression that grip many men in their 40s because we believe it’s solely a youth issue. Men in their 40s need as much support and help as they can access, unfortunately the run down mental health system in this country is effectively broken.

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In 2016 I had two suicidal episodes. These were triggered by enormous stress I was under when I found out my credit rating had been shredded to pieces by the NZ Police as part of their failed and illegal investigation into Nicky Hager.

The Police told ever major bank in NZ that I was a computer fraudster and demanded all and any information about me from my banks.

This grotesque defamation, breach of privacy and breach of my civil rights is currently languishing in front of the Human Rights Review Tribunal because the Human Rights Commission doesn’t have the funding to prosecute the Police and hold them to account.

But what that experience in 2016 did cause me to do (and it has particular resonance with the tragic passing of TVNZ Broadcaster Greg Boyed), was to reconsider our popular perception that suicide is a teen problem, and not an adult one.

While we have terrifying levels of teen suicide, surprisingly one of the the next highest target groups for suicide in NZ is men in their 40s.

I think we fail to acknowledge the stresses and depression that grip many men in their 40s because we believe it’s solely a youth issue. Men in their 40s need as much support and help as they can access, unfortunately the run down mental health system in this country is effectively broken.

The unresolved hurt many men carry with them into their 40s can explode without warning and the agony and torment of depression can overwhelm. With suicide seen as a youth issue, opening up about that pain in your 40s can be even more difficult.

I think programs like  the ones being trailed in Christchurch where men can talk with other men about this pain are essential to open those pathways to unpacking a lot of that pent up sadness and anger.

Much love and support to Greg Boyed’s whanau at this moment of trauma. He was a talented broadcaster and a lovely man. Let’s hope that a wider awareness of how pervasive depression and suicide is amongst men in their 40s can in some way cause some good in this time of grieving.

Kia kaha.

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26 Comments

  1. Tiger Mountain says:

    lest we forget, Peter Conway, not just teens and 40s affected…

    good points Martyn, a lot of mental health problems are a justifiable response to the wall of crap that is modern life…but deep seated depression so bad that suicide is the solution, is another matter

    it was great to see one health service offering immediate contact with a mental health professional, rather than the too often–take a leaflet and we will see you in six weeks…

    properly funding universal mental health services, is another reason why the new govt. needs to drop its bullshit fiscal responsibility cap of around 30% GDP

  2. Spoon says:

    Good piece Bomber,
    I won’t go too far into my own views of suicide as that would be a step too far for many people.
    I have lived with depression for many years, for most of them (when i was young) i didn’t really know what it was, just that I knew i felt different and i kept it to myself. I personally found practicing traditional the internal martial art Wing Chun the best remedy to depression since 2006.
    In 2014 after a series of major life changes in the previous three years, i went to see a clinical psychologist (after i went to a counselor and inadvertently steam rolled her into the ground through my intensity) I spent close to a year going there, with various degrees of results. I found i am not the kind of person that can talk about their feelings and I find it humiliating to do it. The only thing that really works for me is Wing Chun training. To put it into perspective…while i was going to the psychologist i was also reading a book called The Conspiracy against the Human Race, a nonfiction book by Thomas Ligotti detailing the meaningless of human life….I feel comfortable with how my life is, working and trying to deal with the fact that i will amount to nothing in this world.

  3. esoteric pineapples says:

    I don’t know Greg Boyed managed to disguise his depression so well when he had such a public job.

    • Darrin Hodgetts says:

      Martyn thanks for this post. As a guy in his 40s, I could not agree more.
      It also takes a lot to discuss this stuff publicly. I appreciate your efforts. As a longtime lurker on this site, I appreciate your efforts and am glad that you pulled through your own episodes.
      The last government has a lot to answer for in terms of ramping up the pressure on all of us so that a few of them can crap in a few more dollars.

    • Liberty4NZ says:

      The same way a professional actor can I presume – recite lines, laugh on cue, cry on cue, doing what everyone expects of him/her.

  4. RED BUZZARD says:

    +100…very thoughtful post and important…we need to protect our men and boys more

  5. countryboy says:

    I have a few words of advice. Born of experience, I might add.
    Never, ever, ever, never, let a Bankster get in the way of a worry free day. Ever. Worried about paying the bills? Then don’t pay them. Fuck them. Fuck Bankster credit. Fuck it! Sell the debt-tomb house, buy a house bus, grow flowers and vegetables, feed the birdies and smooch your lover/s/beasties.
    Pause for a moment and avoid your own species for as long as you can. I’m a particular fan of wee beasties in the Robbie Burns vein. It’s a rare beauty, when you’re on the edge and your dog swings by for a cuddle.
    Suicide? I wouldn’t give the fuckers the satisfaction. Go out swinging, is my advice.
    So? A young handsome, well paid, well loved musician and partner and father checks out. I thank The Gods that I don’t understand, or am familiar with, that level of despair.
    My heart goes out to his partner, kids and friends. This will be a dark time for you guys. But remember? This too, shall pass.

    I send this interview to people who’ve experienced the death of someone they love. It’s a bit fab, in my opinion.

    Dr Penny Sartori
    http://www.radionz.co.nz/national/programmes/ninetonoon/audio/2588683/dr-penny-sartori-near-death-experiences

    • Joe22 says:

      “Suicide? I wouldn’t give the fuckers the satisfaction”.

      Yeah, as Jock Barnes said,

      “Don’t let the bastards grind you down.”

  6. Mjolnir says:

    Greg Boyd – good bloke.

    Mental health services – not so good.

    Thank you 9 years of National govt underfunding.

  7. Mike the Lefty says:

    Mental health is just as important as physical health. Just as it is difficult to function as a happy productive human (although not impossible) if you have a physical illness or condition, it is equally difficult if you have a mental illness or condition.
    But still there is the old hoary stigma of mental illness not being “real” diseases because most people with mental illnesses or conditions look relatively “normal”. Depression is the worst because a person suffering from depression usually looks and behaves like anyone else much of the time but it is still there, even if you can’t see it, it never completely goes away and always has a bearing on your life.
    Take my word for it, I am one.
    I vehemently argue against the modern trend to regard depression as a “youth thing”. It is no such thing. It can affect any age from youth to old age – its just that the triggers, symptoms and causes are different.
    What really gets my goat is when you have pundits and commentators making noises about “how can you be depressed when you are a successful person (journalist in Greg’s case) and have so much to live for?” This is always said by people who don’t have to live with the problem and they simply don’t understand that depression is not simply something that happens when a few things go wrong – that is normal worry and grief – but it has to do with the way the brain communicates with the rest of your body functions – memory, sleep, moods, etc – the communication gets stuffed up at times.
    I think some progress on this has been made over the years. I think that when ex-Allblack John Kirwan came out publicly that he had suffered from depression even in his All Black heyday broke through some of the stigma and did the cause of mental health a lot of good and I admired his courage in doing that.
    But more needs to be done. Most people who have some mental health problems are, with the right kind of help, able to lead full lives as valuable members of communities and they deserve to be treated as real people, not nutters.

  8. LOLBAGZ says:

    I am of the view that one error we are making in addressing this crisis is the way we tend to reduce it to a collection of individuals exhibiting psychological problems, although that method ignores the sociological state which the society continuously reinforces. But the social fact of the suicide rate is a fact sui generis in itself and indicates the presence of a specific sociological state that is never directly engaged with, this state is known as Anomie. That is a loss of social bonds in a context of having no moral guidance across society. What I am saying is the psychological reductionist interpretation is deficient and ignores some of the most basic theoretical assumptions of sociology and that is not good enough.

    The following is an academic paper concerning this problem, written by Mathieu Deflem, Professor of Sociology at the University of South Carolina:
    http://deflem.blogspot.com/1989/08/from-anomie-to-anomia-and-anomic.html

  9. Janio says:

    A good blog Bomber. Sensitive insights and positive proposals for change. The statistics show a high rate of suicide among retired men too.

    Disguising your intent to commit suicide is common, Pineapple. Our son did that. Despite his academic success our non-competitive son was alienated from the rat race that is capitalism and thought of himself as a failure a friend told us later.

  10. Rickoshay says:

    yes an all to familiar problem, i agree about animals as a mental health measure, they bring one comfort and amusement at the same time, paper pushing, time serving mental health professionals dont help a grown ass man at all, after all we are sposed to be tough and hard and provide no matter what happens to us personally. Persecution bye the fuzz on the other hand is something we can do something about

    • Gary says:

      Stop blaming the system, you dont even know if he approached the mental health system, as far as “persecution by the fuzz”, if you are being persecuted then why dont you just start behaving yourself and conforming the standards expected by a civilized society.

      • Rickoshay says:

        Fuck that mate look at society, its a bad joke, i speak from experience and i know im bitter, but i except my own foibles

        • Sam Sam says:

          I really don’t feel like this discussion should end with this. Lets devolve into specifics about muh ideology is longer than your treatment plan, and such. Let’s not let this thread die or delve into semantics and specific medications, etc.

          This is too important. How many more of our community need support and encouragement to seek help? Surley we can discuss and debate tactics to help folks. Maybe we have friends we can help convince to seek help? Maybe further discussions of our personal experiences can encourage others to fight? I know we’re not therapists or lawyers and such, but we can keep the subject alive, discuss experiences, and direct folks to effectively give help, no?

          • Rickoshay says:

            sure im happy to debate with small minded brain washed system drones tho i prefer to do it at arms reach, if your having trouble copping with the lies and misinformation shoved down your thought process daily by the MSM, id suggest talking with members of the older generation who have experienced in their lives the same bullshit your pushing, talking with them and getting a pet to show you some unconditional love may help your personality disorder, other than that id suggest not drinking the “KOOLAID” pushed by institutionalized Doctor class, who only profit from your misery.

      • Rickoshay says:

        never said he did man wake up

  11. mary_a says:

    Kia ora Martyn.

    An excellent post, which will hopefully go to help in some way towards not only recognising the dark insidious hidden illness that is depression, particularly in males, but also giving sufferers (family & friends) the chance to acknowledge it’s OK to reach out for support. It’s not a sign of failure, but a sign of courage.

    Unfortunately, good mental health provision is the poor relation of our health service, much to the nation’s shame. Suicide it seems, being more prevalent in Kiwi boys and men, is possibly the tragic result of a failed mental health service.

    Mental health educators need to be out there in the community educating about the invisible ravages of depression, if lives are to be saved, emphasising the importance of recognising something is not right and seeking help and support.

    Thoughts go out to all whanau, friends and colleagues who have been affected by the suicide off a loved one.

  12. ropata says:

    Mike King’s comments were spot on this morning. The system is set up only to support those in crisis (i.e. attempting to kill themselves), not the vast majority of people who have low level depression and function normally on the outside.

    I received some very helpful face to face counselling over the years, from Youthline Auckland and Arahura Heath Centre in Christchurch. If you need someone to talk to, I recommend finding a good supportive counsellor that you trust. It may be necessary to shop around, some people just don’t feel right. This was around $50 per hour, once a week, quite affordable for me at the time.

    Low level support should be government subsidised for everyone

  13. Marc says:

    I was shocked also by the news yesterday about Greg Boyed. He was always a nice face and voice on TVNZ, and still a quite good journalist, I thought, although I would like most to be cutting much deeper than the the average NZ journo ever dares cutting.

    As for mental health, I can count myself in as one who has suffered more than most would be able to cope with.

    It is a running battle at times, for the better or the worse, so I know full well where people with depression and some other conditions may come from.

    My sympathies go out to the family and loved ones of Greg, and others, who have ended in too early deaths or tragedy.

    Let us hope this government does finally get a plan and approach together that does offer more effective and accessible help. For years true help has been inaccessible, that is for most, only some with bigger pockets of money could afford expensive counselling, specialist treatment and so forth.

    It will not come cheap, that is where the challenge will lie, as most tax payers thing of their own benefit and advancement, and do not want to spend extra on others who they may not even know.

    Decades of neoliberal brainwashing has destroyed much of the fabric of NZ society, it will take generations to reverse that damage, and sadly so much ‘collateral’ damage happened and still happens along the way.

    Kia Kaha all.

  14. Maama says:

    Good post Martyn, whilst better mental health care is urgently required in this country, we really need to be looking at why we have such a high rate of depression affecting such a wide range of victims.
    I believe that stress is a very real trigger for depression, and when I think of the horrendous hours of work that NZ’ers are contracted to, then the pitiful rates of pay that are far below the living wage rate, is it any wonder that we have such a serious situation affecting us all.
    If one family member suffers with depression – the whole family are affected in so many different ways.
    I was fortunate to be a worker during the 1950’s through to 2008, and the difference in working conditions was unbelievable.
    How anyone can work a 60 hour week every week of the year seems a ridiculous situation for me.
    Our employers need to go back to the principles of 8 hours work, 8 hours sleep, and 8 hours recreation.
    Every year we celebrate Labour Day – it is time to bring those principles back into practice.

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