Jay Davies has everything going for him – a cool career, a fit body, a lovely wife and two great kids. But five years ago, the Edmonton firefighter almost took his own life.
Now, for Movember, he’s speaking out about the importance of men’s mental health. Of the nearly 4,000 suicides in Canada per year, about 80 per cent are men.
“I had… macho, societal expectations I guess I put on myself,” said the 35-year-old. “I had to protect others from the pain, the mayhem, going on inside my brain.
“I was falling apart from the inside out. I was losing control.”
Davies said his downward spiral started with some disturbing events at work about eight years ago. He attended several calls where he had to try to calm people who were dying in front of him. At the same time, he was going through a divorce, and learning to live as a single dad of two young children.
He pushed the trauma to the back of his mind. But it surfaced.
“(I) started having flashbacks and nightmares. I was afraid to sleep because when I did, I would wake up with very vivid dreams… loud sounds.”
Davies started drinking a lot, and often had road rage. Then he started seeing a psychologist. After two years, he figured he was fine and stopped his sessions. He wasn’t.
In 2013, after a couple of sleepless nights, he dropped off his kids at school and drove back to his garage. He left the engine on, rolled down his windows, and breathed.
“I just wanted to sleep and I wanted the dreams and the flashbacks… to stop.”
About half an hour later in the car, he remembered he’d have to pick up his kids from school.
“And I punched the horn and I remember saying to myself, ‘I don’t even have time to be dead.’ So I turned the car off and opened the garage and called my psychologist right away.”
Davies still sees his psychologist regularly. He’s realized mental health – like physical health – requires maintenance.
He explains part of the reason he didn’t reach out earlier, is that he didn’t think his problems were anything to complain about.
“My biggest hurdle even to this day is my own worthiness of my own diagnosis (of PTSD).”
“I didn’t go to war, I didn’t almost die… I’ve had friends in the military that have been in grave danger.”
Davies re-married earlier this year. He and his wife Alex Davies are expecting a baby this spring. She said if the couple would have met earlier in life, they never would have made it.
“I don’t think we’d be here today,” said Davies’ wife. “Probably because Jay would have just shut me out.”
She is mindful of allowing her husband to talk through his issues. And Davies now helps his fellow firefighters talk, as a member of the peer support team.
“It takes a lot of guts to ask that question: ‘Are you thinking of killing yourself?’ or ‘Are you thinking of hurting yourself?’ But it takes a lot of power out of that stigma of suicide.”
Watch below: Movember used to be all about moustaches and prostate cancer awareness. But in recent years, the annual event has also been spotlighting men’s mental health. Su-Ling Goh reports.
Davies is participating in Movember. Here is his fundraising page.
For mental health resources specifically for men, visit this website.