Comic Relief’s male suicide awareness ad is no laughing matter

The film aims to promote the benefits of talking to people about your problems.

Powerful: The film was written and proudced by award-winning filmmaker Harry Hitchens
Powerful: The film was written and proudced by award-winning filmmaker Harry Hitchens

The simple act of talking can be a life-saver – that’s the message in a new short film by Comic Relief and award-winning filmmaker and writer Harry Hitchens.

Male suicide remains the single biggest killer of men under the age of 45 in the UK, with 18 deaths every day.

Inspired by Comic Relief’s work to tackle mental health stigma and male suicide, Hitchens – a Royal Television Society and British Independent Film Award winner – has written and produced a short film that aims to show just how life-saving the simple act of talking can be.

The powerful short film begins with a recital of a poem written by Hitchens that explores the stigma surrounding male mental health.

Viewers are shown several everyday situations from a family mealtime to conversations between friends at a pub; but in every scene, an empty seat is present in the room. This represents one of the 94 men who take their own life in the UK each week – 75% of the total suicides in the UK.

As the film goes on, the poem’s focus shifts as it begins to explore the importance of empowering men to speak out and tackle the negative attitudes surrounding male mental health. At the same time, viewers revisit the same scenes, but this time the seats are now filled by the men who were previously missing.

“Help others find their place in the world,” urges the ad as the men resume their roles in society and among their loved ones.

Hitchens said: “It’s been a real honour to be a part of this project and to be able to help raise awareness of such an important issue. For me, it’s critical that we help people speak out and find the support they need.

“I hope this film can bring important conversations to the forefront of our day-to-day lives and help stop the stigma around male mental health that can stop people speaking out and getting help.”

Comic Relief has been involved in mental health work for more than 25 years and is currently supporting 125 organisations in the UK and across the world that are working to ensure more people have access to quality mental health services free from stigma and discrimination.

Samir Patel, chief executive of Comic Relief, said: “Sadly, many people face stigma or simply feel they have no one to confide in about mental health issues. Talking about our mental health is something we need to normalise so that people know they are not alone.

“Harry’s film is a powerful and timely reminder of this – especially when we think of the detrimental impact the pandemic has had on our wellbeing.

"At Comic Relief we’re helping thousands of people access mental health support and I’d urge anyone who is affected by Harry’s important film to reach out and speak to someone asap.”

If you’ve been affected by the issues in this film, please seek support. You can find help at CALM (Campaign against Living Miserably) on 0800 58 58 58 (5pm to midnight) or Samaritans on 116 123 (24 hours a day).

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