As part of the TRU team I wanted to raise awareness of ‘Menfulness’ a York based group that supports the mental health of Men. There are other group around the country and on the TRU route another group that springs to mind is ‘Andy’s Man Club’ which I believe have groups all across the TRU route. So to facilitate raising awareness of Menfulness and my involvement with that group, I was asked to do this article based on my experience with Mental Health. I call my realisation of Mental Health issues a journey. It was a journey of realisation and acceptance. A journey with some significant challenges and one that would test my work, my relationships and my very existence. I’m 57 and an engineer, 6’2” tall your typical rugby playing (not now though), beer drinking bloke. My emotions were hidden behind macho, male bravado and a mis understanding of where my role was in life. My background was growing up in the 1970’s, work in the 1980’s and family in the 1990’s. I went to work on a shopfloor at 17 as an apprentice welder, I played rugby at the weekend and drank loads of beer. My relationships were heavily influenced by the culture around me and my concept of societal expectation and what I thought a bloke should be. So what I wasn’t prepared for was at the age of 40 being diagnosed with depression. “No not me Doc, I’m just a bit down, probably tired just need to ‘man up’ and get a grip”. My wife at the time saw the changes in me, withdrawn, mood swings, finding it hard to concentrate and cope with life. So I did talk to the doctor, well who else was I going to talk to? Not my mates, that’s not what we talked about. Not my family I was the strong man who had to get on and do things. The doctor put me on some tablets, ok at least I didn’t have to talk about it that way. At first they didn’t have much affect but then after 2 months the fog that was holding me back was lifting, I felt great. What an amazing tablet I thought, well that’s done no more doc and no more tablets. Turns out that isn’t how these things work and stopping the tablets sent me into a depression of the likes I’d never experienced. Some people describe it as a black dog hanging over you, for me it was a dark fog that I couldn’t shift no matter how much I tried to ‘man up’ or drink. I was totally ill prepared and found myself back at the doctors who to be honest just shook his head. So we started on a journey that has seen me on medication ever since, it’s taken me to dark places but ones I could now manage with trips to the doctors and some counselling. It’s at this point I should probably say that I smiled all the way through it and only the very few saw the depressed me so if anyone reads this and is shocked as they think they know me it can often be the ones who you wouldn’t expect to be suffering. So to the last year where I have been thinking about going to ‘Menfulness’ but only been on the edge looking in until recently when I took a big step, that anyone new to this type of group who wants to get the most out of it must do, and I walked through the door to a group of men all different ages, all different experiences, but all there because they walked through that door for a reason. What has ‘Menfulness’ given me? It’s given me a group of men who are breaking the stigma, breaking the idea that vulnerability is a negative or a weakness. An opportunity to talk about my emotions as a person, my anxieties, fears and management of those. A chance to talk in a supportive culture and environment. I’ve heard it talked about as a tribe, not a gang or club that picks and chooses, but a family that cares and, I don’t know if I dare say this, but loves and shows love for each other. Strength as a group comes from being there and sharing your problems. There are no pressures put on anyone and you can turn up and just listen or you can join in. Menfulness’s hashtag is #DontManUpSpeakUp and a vision of being a society in which men feel empowered and supported to be the best version of themselves. Menfulness brings men together to socialise, exercise and enjoy themselves whilst sharing their experiences in a supportive, impartial environment that improves mental and physical health. The logo reminds us that, like a cube, there’s a side to us that can’t always be seen. Men still struggle to open up about their mental health while suicide remains the most common cause of death for men aged 20-49. Together we can change that. So if like me you’ve struggled or are struggling there are groups that will give you the opportunity to be yourself without stigma or judgement and can provide the support and care that often is missing.
My Blogs on Menfulness
International Men’s Day Article
International Men’s Day: Breaking Down the Stigma Surrounding Sadness Depression is a global issue that appears to be growing in prevalence year on year. This
Sam’s Lockdown Story
(From July 2020) My name is Sam Watling and I’m 35 years old. I was born and raised here in York and am yet to
Sam’s Guest Blog
I’m learning to use my social media to talk honestly about what’s going on with me in the hope you will do the same.
Hi, I’m Sam. Like many of us I’ve spent years trying to live up to unachievable expectations and worrying about whether I’m enough. Some big