Co-founder Brad Osman, from Man Down Cornwall joins us to talk about men’s mental health. Did you know, 75% of all suicides across the country are men, 12 men a day take their life in the U.K and Cornwall has the third largest suicide rate in the country. What can we all do to make these frightening statistics change for the better? Let’s talk about it.
Here’s an extract from our January Redruth Recorded podcast with co-founder and Director of Man Down Cornwall, Brad.
“We’re a CIC company not a charity and started in October 2018, we arrange fortnightly meetings across Cornwall for men to talk. We’re not counsellors, doctors or nurses or are they therapy sessions, all they are meetings for men to talk. There’s no need to book, we’re very friendly just show up, these sessions encourage men to speak, men are rubbish at speaking- women are very good! It helps for men to be in a safe space to speak amongst others.
The company started by a trigger, our co-founder Ross Jackson Hicks came to me one day with an idea (Ross cuts my hair). Ross was diagnosed with ADHD as a teenager and fell into the wrong way taking drugs and drinking. He wanted to make a change and had got into boxing which meant he had to get super fit and change his lifestyle; he was also looking for a men’s talking group and the nearest talking group he could find was in Newton Abbot. He was cutting my hair and said can we start a charity, I had some experience in the charity sector and said let’s not do that, let’s set up a group and he put it on Facebook. We didn’t have the brand or anything or know what was going to happen but arranged a meeting. The first meeting we had was in the ‘Space’ which is next to Penryn Rugby Club and we set up there and printed some leaflets and had coffee and tea and biscuits, we laid out the chairs and nobody came. We were meant to start at 7 o’clock, at 7.15 no one had arrived and we started packing up and said we better get back to the drawing board here and at 7.25, six men filed in and we had to unpack the tea and coffee. These six guys didn’t know each other, and they were nervous about coming in, they’d been outside chatting together- it was quite emotional for us and for those six men, four of them had attempted taking their lives in the last few months. And that was the start of it, we started in a town barber in Falmouth and one in Hamilton’s Barbers in Redruth but we soon we got a bit too big for them and we had to move to the Community Centre in Redruth.
If you want to see a list of meeting dates, you can check on the website and you’ll find the calendar of dates and locations, we have 25 groups across Cornwall now. Redruth is unusual, it’s the only one we have two meetings in, there’s a daytime meeting and an evening meeting – one is in the CN4C Centre and the other the Community Centre. The Redruth evening meeting is on Thursdays at 7pm at the Community Centre on Foundry Road every other Thursday and the daytime one is on a Wednesday at CN4C at the Elms at 11am – 1pm. We also have an app we’ve developed, there’s a section for those who haven’t been to meetings and want to ask some questions and if you have been to a group, you can find the group on the app and then the guys you met at that group can converse with you online in between the meetings.
There’s no pressure for anyone to speak at the meetings, guys often message us and say they are anxious about coming and I always say to them we know exactly how you feel, most of the guys in the room feel the same way. The first step is coming along to a meeting, we have some guys that have been coming for years and conversely some guys only attend a few times. These groups are for anyone who wants to have a chat not necessarily those who are having mental health issues, it may be that they are coming along to support another person who is struggling. Redruth is one of our biggest meetings, some guys prefer to go to a smaller one and some go to multiple meetings, which is absolutely fine. Everyone in the room will empathise, a guy came to one of our meetings and didn’t talk for about a year but eventually he did.
I think what fills some men with fear is standing in a room face to face talking to one person, like you would with a counsellor.
A guy said to me once – what is it that’s so relaxing about walking into a room of 12 strangers and saying what you want to say.
My mental health tip for helping my mental health is- it’s difficult to think positively if you’re feeling anxious or depressed so we always advise guys to do stuff for themselves, they might be going through all sorts of crisis at home or at work but keep doing something you enjoy for yourself. Whether it’s a walk with the dog or going surfing, make sure you keep time for that and don’t let it go. The other big one is to try and get good sleep, not necessarily long sleep, just try and get plenty of sleep.
We also have social activities for each area and we cover the cost of the transport and activity, this is another thing, it’s important to get outdoors in the fresh air and do an activity, no matter how hard it is or down you’re feeling it’s important to get out of bed and the house no matter what the weather is. For me personally, its cold-water swimming in the sea that takes you mind off everything.”