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Mental Health Art Exhibition

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The Speech - Male depression and suicide 

Bruce adjusted his hammer, screwdriver, and plies on his tool belt. The belt was heavy, he however didn’t notice it anymore; he was used to the heavy weight sitting on his hips. Of late though Bruce felt he had added extra heavy tools which sat on his chest; tools he didn’t recognize nor he had ever used before that were becoming heavier and more restrictive every day. He was scared they would one day compress his chest and he would not be able to breathe anymore.

Bruce’s work mates watched from a distance as he stacked the heavy wooden beams with one hand as if they were pieces of paper. Although he did it with little effort, each movement was slower than usual. His conversations were rarer, and his laughs were nearly inexistent. Each one of his workmates waited for the other to make the first move; you don’t usually talk about these things.

Bruce’s work mate Sam started putting his own work tools away as he spoke.

 “I asked him once if everything was ok, but he didn’t want to talk, so I didn’t push the issue.” Sam wished he had insisted more though. Today was one of those days where it was obvious that there was something wrong with Bruce, but it was so hard to start that conversation.

“Let’s give him some dignity,” Robert said, “he is obviously embarrassed, let’s just pretend we haven’t caught on. I think he needs some space.”

“Yeah, I agree, he will snap out of it when he’s ready. When I’m feeling miserable, I don’t want anyone around me. It usually doesn’t last long—I eventually work it out. You just gotta push through the tough times, that’s what men do.” James was convinced of what he had just said.

Sam wasn’t though. “Let’s ask him out for a beer at the pub tonight.” Sam suggested.

“He won’t come. He doesn’t go anywhere anymore.” James said.

They were right. Bruce didn’t want to talk about it, he didn’t want anyone to notice he felt hopeless and overwhelmed. He wanted to be left alone with those awkward feelings, his mind and body were shutting down and he didn’t want anyone to see him.

Sam put the last of his tools away. Then walked over to Bruce.

“Hey mate can you give me a hand with this?” Sam pointed to the saw table.

“Sure.” Bruce replied.

“Beer tonight, Bruce?”

“No, I’ll pass thanks.” Bruce lifted the saw table on his own and shifted it out of the way.

“Oh, shame I could do with some company, the others can’t come either. I hate Friday nights alone. It sucks.”

Bruce murmured something that Sam didn’t hear. Sam felt uneasiness and embarrassment, just say something Sam, Sam reprimanded himself as he saw Bruce walk away. Damn. Sam felt that slight anxiety rise, like when you need to give a speech in front of an audience; but it was just him and Bruce, how hard could that be? Sam ran his fingers through his hair. Time was ticking. He watched Bruce pick up his backpack, he unzipped the front pocket and got out his car keys.

Walk over to him. The internal chatter in Sam’s head was getting louder and louder, loud enough to prompt him to action.

“Hey mate, I could really do with that beer. Sure you can’t spare an hour for a mate?”

“I’m not feeling the best; I think I’ve got the flu.” Bruce said as he looked away.

“Yeah, it’s been going around lately, really knocks you out.”

“Yeah.” Bruce replied, jiggling the keys in his hand, he stalled, he hesitated. Sam caught that fleeting moment of hesitation. Does he want to talk, or does he feel bad he said no to me? There was no time for over analysing; the clock was ticking—precious moments that could change everything were going by too fast.

“A pint helps to kill those bugs you know. My place maybe?”

Bruce stood still fiddling with his keys. Head down and uncomfortable, he shook his head.

Deflated, Sam took a deep breath. He had failed in his speech. He only had one person in his audience, and he managed to stuff it up. His heart was beating as if he had a room full of people in front of him. He wanted to say something, but the words just couldn’t come out. He watched Bruce helplessly walk to his car.

That worksite felt like a minefield. Sam decided that with some mind craft and Minecraft where the players must acquire resources to build the world and survive, he would try and build a safe place for Bruce.  

Sam arrived home defeated; he didn’t know what to do; he was out of his depth. He could write a nice speech for Bruce and rehearse it. He thought about that and then switched on his PC and googled men’s mental health and men’s suicide, he read for hours until his eyes became heavy, and the yawns became longer and more frequent. The speech was becoming all too hard. He deleted what he had written. What the heck, I’m just going to tell him whatever is on my mind.

Sam switched off the computer; he would have to work with the tools he had in his toolbox. They would probably be a little rusted and not as smooth and shiny as the new ones found in the Bunnings shelves, but he was determined to do his best, he would drill as hard as he could to get the message across, and if Bruce’s toolbelt got too heavy for him to carry then Sam would carry it for him all the way.

Sam would probably tell Bruce, “What the bloody hell is going on with you Bruce? You’re not in a good place and you gotta see a doctor. You’re the best worker and mate, we need you. Your family needs you. Now you’re gonna tell me what’s on your mind because I’m not gonna bloody let this one go, if you think I’m gonna watch you mope around then you don’t know me.”

Sam knew everything he would tell Bruce would be politically incorrect—he was no walking encyclopedia or pocket dictionary.  He would probably give Bruce the wrong advice and offer him his mum’s left-over antidepressants, telling him that his mom has been feeling great since she’s been on them. Sam would take Bruce to the pub, and they would get drunk together, which would not be good either.

Sam thought, what the heck, I’m not gonna beat around the bush, I’m gonna bloody tell him as it is. Yeah, I’m gonna give an awesome bloody speech tomorrow.

Sam sat in front of the TV rehearsing the inappropriate but heartfelt and sincere speech in his mind. He would call Bruce tomorrow and on a park bench with a takeaway coffee or on Bruce’s driveway he would deliver the unprepared speech. 

Sam smiled until sleep got the better of him. Sam dreamt of helping his friend. He dreamt that Bruce would be ok. Everything would be ok!

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