Each statue represents a real man, and a real story.
Every week, 84 men die from suicide in the UK.
It’s a statistic that’s got Britain talking today — as 84 lifesize statues, based on real people, were erected on top of ITV’s London studios, staring down at the city as it woke up.
The powerful stunt, called #Project84, was organised by the Campaign Against Living Miserably (CALM), supported by UK television studio ITV.
Artist Mark Jenkins and collaborator Sandra Fernandez worked with bereaved family members to create each sculpture as a visual representation of real British men who have taken their lives. Every man is named on the CALM website — and the site includes stories about them as told by their closest friends and family.
Male suicide is the biggest killer of men under 45 in the UK, and 75% of all suicides are carried out by men. Every suicide directly affects 135 other people — and CALM has partnered with Matthew Smith, who lost his brother to suicide 13 years ago, to call on the UK government to improve suicide prevention and bereavement support. Over 50,000 people have already signed their petition.
“My brother Dan was my best pal and my idol,” said Matthew Smith. “He was taken by something silent, something none of his friends or family saw coming. The true horror of what we as his family experienced when he took his own life is something that could be preventable if we all take a stand together.”
Mental health plays an important part in the UN’s Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) that form the basis of their vision for a better world. Under its global health campaigning, it promotes positive wellbeing, and aims to reduce “premature mortality from noncommunicable diseases” by a third
Often, suicide disproportionately affects the poorest people in society. Across the world, research from the World Health Organisation shows that those with low or middle incomes have far higher suicide rates than those with a high income. Such a pattern is reflected in the UK, as one study showed that an additional 30,000 to 40,000 suicide attempts may have occurred after the economic downturn. Academics from Bristol, Manchester, and Oxford Universities suggested that austerity might be responsible for an extra 1,000 suicides.
But numbers alone can sometimes struggle to get the message across, and CALM wanted to lead with more intimate stories.
“With Project 84, we wanted to make the scale of the situation very clear to everyone that sees the sculptures,” said Simon Gunning, CEO of CALM. “By working with the families and friends of men who have taken their own lives to highlight individual stories, we hope to make the impersonal thoroughly personal.”
The stunt evoked a powerful response from Londoners who first caught sight of the statues on the Southbank on Monday morning.
If you need support and you’re based in the UK, you can call the CALM helpline on 0800 58 58 58 between 5 p.m. and midnight. Alternatively, call the Samaritans on 116 123 if you just need to talk.