Men on the ropes

Gary McArthur case study

Gary McArthur, 28, British Masters lightweight champion boxer and Glasgow labourer, said:

“I was born in Clydebank on the outskirts of Glasgow. My mum worked in a petrol station and my dad was a tiler. My parents split up when I was just a toddler.

As a boy, I always liked watching the Rocky films. Then one day when I was 12, a lad I knew took me down to a boxing gym – Clydebank Osprey. That’s where I met my trainer, Barry Winter, which was great. Now, he is like a mentor and a father figure to me.

I left school at 18, boxing was my focus, I was lottery funded as an amateur, but moving up a level and turning professional you lose the funding. Now I’m labouring on a building site to see me through between fights.

There are times when I’m training for a fight, the pressure will build up and I get really depressed. The problem is you have to sacrifice so much; it is physical torture. I’m hungry the whole time; my work mates are having fry-ups and I’m eating sardines for breakfast to get down to weight.

On the other side, the mental struggle is agony. Some nights I have a bad session at the gym and I get so depressed and low that I could just quit – even though boxing is my life.

I’ve had all sorts of demons with drink. Between the ages of 16 and 20 I didn’t drink that much as I was focused on my boxing. Then I began to change, the drink became more prominent. I used alcohol as a way to escape from the pressure. I’ve had a bit of a love-hate relationship with drink.

I’m a typical Glasgow guy and I deal with my depression myself. I think it’s because there is this image that it’s not natural for a man to talk about his feelings even when you are really low and need help. It’s even more difficult because your meant to be this solid stone, larger than life character and its sometimes it’s hard to uphold the image.

I have had suicidal thoughts at times, I don’t really know why, I can’t blame one thing but thankfully I’ve never tried to make it a reality. I know men often suffer the consequences of not being able to talk about their problems. A friend of mine, who was in his 40s, took his own life in 2008. I never knew he was suffering and he never looked depressed to me, I wouldn’t have guessed it in a million years. It was a total shock.

Last October I hit the self-destruct button. It was a crazy time, I’d just split up with my girlfriend and I was injured, so I was going out on the town all the time. Then a friend called me up and said my ex was seeing this new guy. I was absolutely gutted, my whole world crashed down. Her new man was a football player. The first thing I thought was that he is more glamorous and has more money than me. I was always insecure in my relationship and I always thought I wasn’t good enough. I didn’t have the money to make her happy and this seemed to confirm it in my mind.

I was so angry and I didn’t deal with it right. The violence was a way of getting rid of my negative feelings; I should have dealt with it better. I decided to support this campaign because I want men, like me, to realise they can pick up the phone no matter what the problem is and talk to someone.

Luckily things seem different for the moment. I’ve found a new love, we’ve moved in together and I’m looking forward to my British title eliminator before the end of the year.”

More information

This information forms part of Samaritans' latest advertising campaign targeting men to get all men talking about their feelings. The aim is to get them to consider that calling Samaritans’ 24/7 confidential helpline could be an option for them.

Equally, though, we believe that talking to anyone – family, friends, colleagues, health professionals – is better than bottling things up.