Making Space for men and their mental health

By Anthony Walsh

A support group for men’s mental health is hosting bi-weekly events in an effort to encourage more men to talk about their issues and experiences with mental health.

Around one in eight men in the UK suffer from common mental health problems like anxiety and depression but are less likely to seek support than their female counterparts.

In Merseyside and Cheshire, eight out of every ten suicides are men, with those in middle age and from lower economic backgrounds most at risk.

Mental health charity “Making Space” has begun hosting events at Bryer Road Community Centre in Prescot to combat this issue and encourage men to open up and seek help if needed.

The group offers men the opportunity to take part in sports like football, or when the weather takes a turn, indoor activities such as badminton, table tennis and chess.

Paul Cruces, a support worker at Making Space, started the group as a way of encouraging men to get out and talk to people about how they feel, and said it took thirteen months to set up: “There was an opportunity for starting a group through a grant, so we put our application in.

“We found that basically every group these people had for support ceased as a result of the pandemic. Anyone can have a difficult time with mental health, people are a bit more honest about it post-pandemic, the stigma is sort of gone.”

Paul stated that the group’s 5pm-7pm time slot is particularly important due to the lack of support available to these men in the evenings.

“We do it after hours, not many groups are available in the evening. It's nice to offer a group that runs until 7pm, it gives some active support.”

Paul’s colleague, Bob Towers, who helped start the group alongside him, spoke about what was on offer for those wanting to attend, Bob said: “The last couple of years there have been issues with men’s mental health: It’s about getting men together and encouraging them to talk.”

Bob explained that the wording surrounding the events was something taken into consideration to make it more appealing to men who may not otherwise attend due to social pressures.

“We’ve called it ‘mental fitness’, there’s a focus on masculine words and making it activity focused, it puts it in a non-medical environment.”

The events themselves are described as fixtures, avoiding typical mental health terms that may turn some men away from attending.

Tom Doolan, one of the event’s organisers, talked about how the group’s meetings help those that attend, “It’s about getting people to come out who necessarily wouldn’t come out, especially coming out of a pandemic where we weren’t allowed to come out; some people are still struggling with that,

“There are gentlemen here who didn’t know each other six weeks ago who are now going out for lunch. People really seem to like coming down and playing sport instead of sitting around and not really doing anything.”

Tom also stressed the importance of social media and the ability it provides to reach out to those men in need of mental health assistance: “We’ve had some stuff on social media from some former Everton players who have been putting the group forward, we had a young lad who turned up for the last session who’d seen it through an Everton player’s tweet.

“84 men a day commit suicide in the UK alone, and I’m not taking away from any other genders or anything but that’s a big, big number. If you can get from 84 to 83, I know it's only one less but it's one less.”

Kevin, one of the attendees, talked about how the group had given him a chance to get out of the house and make bonds with other men like himself. Kevin said: “When you live on your own it’s a lonely world like, but it helps when you’ve got someone to talk to. 

“I know Alan, Rob and John, I’ve known them a long time, it lifts your mood doesn’t it when you leave the house? Cause you’re just stuck between the four walls all day.”

Group newcomer Alan spoke about how groups such as these are important for older men as well as younger ones: “I’ve been meaning to come for the last three or four times, but things have come up, so I’ve not managed to get here until today. I know most of the people here anyway as well, so it’s quite familiar and I’m not out of my comfort zone.

“A lot of older people find it really hard to get online; I support someone with friends who maybe can’t get online, but they tend to rely on me rather than learn. 

“I realise if I’m not there, they might not be able to do anything, so it's hard for the older generation to get online sometimes, if you rely on just one friend and that friend dies or moves away or something, you’ve lost everything”

Making Space support worker Karina Connolly said that men make up a large proportion of the people who come to their organisation, and pointed out the need for groups like this to exist: “Making Space alone, based out of Warrington, covers quite a lot of people from all over the country. Its not just women, it’s not just young people, its men as well, they’re probably a majority of our service users. I think anyone, generally, shouldn’t be ashamed or upset about having to talk about anything.

“Even if you’re not a football fan you can understand the lingo, and you’re not going ‘oh god, I’ve got to go to a session?’ that wording can upset people. It's open to anyone if they want to go, if they want to come and have coffee for five minutes or want to stick around and see what is offered.”

If you would like to find out more about Making Space contact 0151 305 8712 or 07773 226038.

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