Why riding bikes really can save lives.

Cycling Plus reader Rob Smale shares just how important it is for men to talk about their mental health and seek help when in crisis

Cycling Plus Rob Smale Gets ready to rise a sportive

Cycling Plus reader Rob Smale – a member of our Get Britain Riding team – shares how important it is for men to talk about their mental health and seek help when in crisis.

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Statistics show that men are three times more likely than women to die by suicide. Recently middle-aged men have become the age group that are at highest risk and more likely to take their own life.

Earlier this summer I wrote about my experiences and how I use cycling to help me cope with my mental health issues. I lost my marriage, my business and my home and attempted to end my life just under three years ago.

It’s been a hard road back but since May this year I’ve covered 2100km on the Kent roads; registered to take part in a three day/200 mile Ride for Life to raise money for East Anglia’s Children’s Hospices (www.justgiving.co/Rob-Smale) at the end of September and last weekend completed my first 85 mile sportive in Kent.

I would encourage every man to speak up and say something if they have concerns about their mental health. Talking can save so many lives. I reached out and got help. I am now embracing my experience to help others in a similar situation.

Suicide prevention campaigns are now focusing on men because research shows that problems such as debt, relationship breakdown, stress and feeling of hopelessness, guilt and anger can all cause immense pressure. If you think a mate is taking strain you don’t have to be a paid mental health professional to ask him how he is or invite him on a ride to clear his head.

Getting out on my bike has given me something to focus on, given me a sense of control and encouraged me to take on challenges. If I can keep grinding away till I reach the top of the hill and drag my fat butt out of the front door I’m winning

If you know anyone who is feeling the pressure, you can contact the Samaritans on 116 123, in Kent, my county, the local authority has launched the Release the Pressure campaign and many other local mental health trusts have similar schemes, while Mental Health Matters also runs a number of confidential helplines.

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For more information and to read about other men whose lives have been turned around after they found the courage to speak about their problems click here.