Situation Kritikal

Kelly Mattison finds that suicide is biggest killer of men aged 30 to 45, as hip-hop artist speaks out after taking overdose

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“I take my mental health one day at a time,” said Liam Powers. “It’s probably bad to say but I don’t have a plan in place. I’m up and down all the time and that’s just how I am.”

At the beginning of last year, 25-year-old Powers, known as hip-hop and grime artist and singer-songwriter Kritikal Powers, took an overdose in an attempt to take his own life. It was a “build-up of everything” that led him to feel that suicide was the best option.

“I was at the lowest point I felt I could possibly be at. By doing that and surviving and then feeling the regret I felt, that said to me, OK, it’s not your time to go. I’ve got more to achieve.”

Powers’ music has been featured on BBC Introducing, BBC Radio 4 and BBC1Xtra and he has his own company, an online platform to promote and support local unsigned artists. He is a trained camera operator and video editor.

‘Traumatic’

Following the release of his first single Rebellion, he delivered an explosive performance and lyricism master classes to young care leavers. Yet despite being outwardly successful and performing on occasion to 4,000 people his panic attacks were so debilitating he could not leave the house.

In the period before his overdose, he had got caught up in a life where there were “a lot of drugs floating about”, and he was drinking heavily. “I got to the point where I was really depressed and when you drink you think more negatively,” he said. “Drinking was not good for me and it put me in a dark place.”

At 15 Powers watched his dad die from alcoholism, a loss he describes as “horrific” and one he is still trying to make sense of now.

Some of his earliest memories, which he describes as “traumatic,” are visiting his dad in prison. “I only got to see him once in two years,” he said.

He cared for him before he was put on a life support machine. “He was drinking so much that he developed big abscesses all over his body,” he said. “It was horrible. I changed his dressings for him. I was really young back then.”

His music has helped with his mental health. “Once I got to the point where I could tell stories it started to help me because none of my family would talk about what happened with my dad,” he said. “I think that was their way of dealing with it but I needed to express it.”

‘Restrained walls’

Now he wants to speak out about his attempted suicide to help to break the stigma that some men feel when it comes to expressing their struggles and anxieties. “I think a lot of men are trapped within restrained walls of masculinity and they won’t admit that they need help,” he said. “That’s a really sad thing because everybody needs help sometimes.”

According to the Campaign Against Living Miserably (CALM), the charity dedicated to preventing male suicide, the biggest killer of men aged 20-45 in the UK is suicide. Men are three times more likely than women to take their own lives.

David Knight, a cognitive behavioural psychotherapist, said some men feel they are not “allowed” to show signs of weakness, especially when younger.

Instead of seeking help they are more likely to turn to unhealthy coping mechanisms. Alcohol, he said is a “big risk factor” in suicide.

“Men are more likely to cope by trying to suppress what they are feeling so smoking cannabis or drinking is a way of doing that and of course in the short term that can help but in the long term it leads to increased depression, which can worsen suicidal thoughts.”

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