MENTAL STRENGTH: HUMEN Space
In the UK, 84 men commit suicide every week; 75% of all UK suicides are male. And, despite these statistics, men only make up 36% of GP referrals. The most at-risk demographic has somehow become the least supported. It’s time that men felt enabled to talk about their mental health.
A new “gym for the mind” in Cardiff, called the HUMEN Space, provides a non-clinical environment for men to talk on a regular basis. Its founder River Hawkins has recently opened the fourth HUMEN Space in the UK, at Cardiff’s Chapter Arts Centre, and is concerned with the way men deal with their own mental health issues and hopes to empower them to gain the confidence to speak.
After seeking therapy when hitting rock bottom, he was turned away from getting further help unless he said he was suicidal. The fact that there are no ‘preventative measures’ to help men before suicide becomes even a passing thought is detrimental to all men suffering in silence. Hawkins’ response was to found HUMEN – a space for men to engage with their own feelings and that of others, in a safe “non-clinical” environment.
“When I was trying to seek talking therapy, I felt like a number,” says River. “These sessions were in a hospital and I spent the first half ticking boxes.” At HUMEN, everyone is made to feel they can express themselves without being judged. “Often, if people don’t want to talk, they just listen and hear something that unlocks a response, creating this amazing domino effect.”
Yet, why is group engagement so necessary in combatting mental health struggles in men? “We are more connected [by technology], but more physically isolated than ever,” says River. HUMEN is unique in its approach, acknowledging how hard it can be to open up.
“Boys are taught to reject anything feminised; empathy, compassion, vulnerability…,” says Hawkins. “As men, we have to comply with the outdated notion that we have it all together and, in turn, emotions get downplayed.” This has led to many resorting to anger, frustration and violence when things get too much, whether that violence is directed towards themselves or others.
The fact men and boys are taught not to embrace their own vulnerability is perhaps the crux of the issue here. Yet the space offered by this charity proves it’s never too late. The past can’t be changed but maybe we can reach towards a more compassionate future. DAISY GAUNT
HUMEN Space: A Gym For The Mind can be found in Chapter Arts Centre, Cardiff, every Monday from 6.30-7.30pm. Info: www.wearehumen.org