Aged 65, the former chartered accountant, still has periods where he struggles not to give in to feelings of desperation and isolation. The reason he is still here, he says, is because he reached out to others. Today, he bravely opens up about his own experiences to help encourage others to reach out and open up about the suicidal thoughts that they may be having.
“You don’t want people to feel what you have felt and that is why I am here telling my story and shining a light on suicide,” says Michael.
“Even though there have been some dark times, I wouldn’t change what has happened to me as I think my experiences have made me kinder and more accepting towards others.
“The world would be a better place if it were less discriminatory about people’s differences and just accepted people how they are. We must be more generous to the differences of others for it would be pointless if we were all the same.”
After telling his parents that he was gay aged just nine-years-old, Michael was subjected to relentless bullying and says he has never been away from bullies since.
Growing up in Singapore with his family in the 1960 and 70s was particularly hard and there was no escape at home, where his dad took Michael for hypnosis and psychiatric help to stop him from being gay.
Michael said: “My dad basically just wanted a son who was more masculine. Being bullied at school was hard enough, but my dad was so disappointed about how I had turned out and that hurt.
“In 1968 I left Singapore, aged just 14, and thought things would be easier for me living with my uncle in the UK, but I vividly remember that on my third day in London and someone saying to me ‘why don’t you go back to where you’ve come from?’
“I was so shocked as I had never experienced racism before and at the same time was being labelled a ‘ponce’ at school.
“I began to feel so low as I just couldn’t understand why there was such a need for some people to take advantage of the differences in others. Why do they want to find the weakness in a person and then use it against them?”
Michael said he knew he needed to talk about how low he was feeling but felt very alone. He said he didn’t want to ring a helpline like the Samaritans as he knew he could only open up about the thoughts he was having face-to-face with someone he trusted.
He said: “There are so many times that I have nearly given in to my desperation and ended my life.
“Do not keep those feelings to yourself. Speak out and seek help. The reason that I’m still here is because I reached out to people.”
Michael also decided that it was best for him to speak to someone he trusted rather than seek help on social media.
Michael added: “I would like to say to someone who is going through this, who is really at their worst ebb, that if I can survive this then so can you.
“When you feel so low, just decide to sleep on it for today. In the morning you will find that there is something that is sure to make things look different.
“You must tell someone about how you feel, somebody you trust about how you’re feeling so you can get help. If I hadn’t been able to talk about how I was feeling, I wouldn’t be here today.”
Michael, who now lives in Salford, is supporting the ‘Shining A Light On Suicide’ campaign, which has been commissioned by Greater Manchester Health and Social Care Partnership to take the sensitive subject of suicide out of the dark and encourage everyone to talk about it in an honest, open and direct way, so no one sees suicide as a solution to their problems.
Suicide is the biggest killer of men under 49, women aged between 20 and 34 and is the leading cause of death in people aged 15 to 29.
Statistics show that many men in particular who have died by suicide did not ask for help or speak to someone before they took their life.
The #shiningalightonsuicide campaign encourages people to talk about suicide in an honest and open way so no one feels it is a solution to their problems.
Together we can help prevent suicide. Suicide affects us all. Encourage someone to talk before suicide seems their only option.
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