With Movember and International Men’s Day this month, we’re taking the time to look at one of the most prevalent problems affecting men – the lack of openness around mental health. Billy Edwards explores the inspiring efforts of some organisations dedicated to tackling the issue and the profound impact they have on men’s mental health in Wales.
While speaking up and sharing anxieties takes immense courage for men against prevalent stigma and gender stereotypes, its effects in lessening those feelings are trifold as the first step to recovery. Of the 5,583 suicides registered in England and Wales in 2021, around three-quarters were male, their largest cause of death under 50. Mental health amongst men is a silent killer, as unfair gender prejudices deem it weak to admit you would like support, and so many struggle alone: NHS figures state that as few as 36% of referrals to NHS talking therapies between 2019 and 2020 were for men.
Fortunately, a range of charities and organisations across Wales seek to assist its male population with greater mental wellbeing.
Men’s Sheds Cymru (0300 7729626 / mensshedscymru.co.uk) aids mostly older men in combating social isolation, whether caused by retirement, bereavement, health or any other reason. It’s organised to find something invigorating and rewarding to do in a shed – a ‘by stealth’ approach that encourages its members to invite others into their sheds to pick up skills, converse about their experiences, and engage in a fulfilling community. Now, more than 70 friendly sheds can be found across Wales.
Members of this charity, and their stories, have inspired a new opera. Titled Shoulder To Shoulder and touring Wales between Sat 11 and Sat 25 Nov, Swansea City Opera’s production promises to be as funny as it is moving. Its name is based on the idea that while men may struggle to talk face-to-face, they may find talking shoulder-to-shoulder when engaged in some form of activity more comfortable. Its cast includes Welsh soprano Jessica Robinson, a finalist in this year’s Cardiff Singer Of The World competition.
Lads And Dads (ladsanddads.org), a Bridgend support group for men, was established in 2019 and now has almost two thousand members. As well as hosting social events in the great therapeutic outdoors – hiking, wild swimming – it’s a place for free-reigning advice and conversation. One of their most popular meetups are regular Sunday morning football kickabouts on Pencoed Campus. A YouGov poll in 2019 concluded that one in five men has no close friends, twice as many as women; Lads And Dads combat male loneliness with fun, casual activities, and group sessions which realise the value of sharing problems with other men who have been through similar problems themselves.
Marauders Mens Health (07375 647435 / marauders-menshealth.org) is a Port Talbot charity that specialises in simple ‘walk and talk’ therapy around south Wales. Different groups for different abilities take in picturesque views such as Sunken Gardens near Aberavon Beach, with an experienced resilience worker on hand to provide support when necessary. Open to all ages (though members are predominately over 45), with walks graded in difficulty from one to 10, MMH also run workplace awareness sessions, something considered increasingly important by employers. In 2018, Mind found that 48% of 44,000 employees surveyed had experienced a mental health problem in their current job: forging a culture of confidence and self-belief benefits everybody, both professionally and personally.
If you’re feeling overwhelmed and distressed, hopefully attending an event by one of the many organisations available in Wales will prove there is a lot of help available from other people who have been in your shoes. They hope to shift unjust prejudices towards a positive idea of masculinity and prove you never need to carry any weight alone.
Other useful resources
Provides free, independent, expert housing and bills advice.
08000 495495 (Mon-Fri 9.30am-4pm)
General mental health services to help you live the life you want.
0300 1233393 (Mon-Fri 9am-6pm)
Practical advice and support for men who have been abused.
0333 5670556 (Mon-Fri 9am-6pm)
Emotional support at any time, day and night.
Text Shout to 85258 – it’s the UK’s first 24/7 text service, free on all major mobile networks, and staffed by volunteers.
Mental Health 111 (Option 2)
Did you know that calling NHS 111 and selecting Option 2 takes you to a dedicated mental health care helpline? It’s open all day, every day.
words BILLY EDWARDS