Men’s mental health: It’s OK to talk
Shaun Tymon lives in Scarborough on the North Yorkshire coast with his wife Mel and black Labrador, Cooper – named after the captain of his beloved Leeds United! He is a trustee of Andy’s Man Club and has been Chair of the mental health charity, The 401 Foundation since 2017.
In a world where men are three times more likely to die by suicide than women, addressing the unique mental health challenges faced by the male population is essential.
Men’s mental health has long been a topic shrouded in stigma and silence. Traditionally, societal expectations often dictated that men should be ‘macho’, strong, and silent. Whether dealing with chronic health conditions or other physical or emotional pressures, this naturally created barriers to open conversations about their mental wellbeing.
However, in my experience the tide is turning, and it’s crucial to discuss why addressing men’s mental health is more important now than ever before. I have been interested in mental health issues for many years, having suffered from poor mental health myself, now largely and fortunately in the past. Understanding the reasons why men may be hesitant to seek help for their mental health is a critical step in addressing it.
One shining example of progress in the realm of men’s mental health is Andy’s Man Club (AMC). I have been involved with AMC since helping to open the Scarborough group and the organisation has gone from a single venue with nine men attending, to, seven years later, 155 groups across the UK with around 3,500 attendees each week.
Men are often hesitant to seek help and as AMC founder, Luke, always says this is mainly down to three issues. Firstly there is the stigma surrounding mental health and the perceived weakness for a male admitting there’s a problem. Secondly men don’t want to feel like they are a burden to others as male culture dictates they should be the one providing the support rather than needing it. Lastly, but certainly not least is the embarrassment felt in discussing mental health. At AMC we recognise all these issues and try to quickly dispel them when new members walk through the door.
To do this, AMC provides a safe and non judgemental place for men to talk about any issues they may be facing. As a peer to peer support group, sessions are run by the men themselves which provides a feeling of mutual support and camaraderie. I have witnessed lives transformed in these sessions and countless men have told me that AMC has literally saved their life. There is no typical attendee of AMC; we have 18 year olds and 75 year olds, we have men who are having suicidal thoughts and men who just recognise the importance of maintaining their mental wellness. Often I see that one of the problems is simply feeling alone. The friendships created at AMC go a long way to addressing this.
For men who find themselves in the throes of mental health struggles and for those who care about them, there is hope. AMC aims to provide hope for both men seeking help and the loved ones who want to support them on their journey.
We know that it is a big step to walk through the door at AMC for the first time and we do everything to make it as easy as possible. New members are welcomed outside the venue and gently encouraged to come in, we emphasise that men don’t have to say anything at all if they don’t want to and as everyone else has gone through the first night feeling the mutual support is something to behold. One of the things that moves me most is when a man, who doesn’t need AMC, brings along his friend who does, or even when a wife, girlfriend or mum brings them to the door and passes them into our care and trust. There is also an online group for men who don’t have a group nearby or who want to try it out before going to a physical meet.
Men’s mental health deserves to be openly discussed, supported, and prioritised. By breaking the silence and addressing the unique challenges that men face, we can pave the way for a healthier, more empathetic society. Organisations like Andy’s Man Club are leading the charge, providing crucial support and shining a light on the path to healing. Together, we can make a difference in the lives of men struggling with mental health issues.
Remember, it’s okay to ask for help. If you or someone you know is struggling with mental health issues, don’t hesitate to reach out to the resources available. Your mental health matters, and there is always support and hope on the horizon. And as we say at Andy’s Man Club, “Its Okay To Talk”.