A Darwen male-focused emotional support group celebrated their one year anniversary of raising awareness for men's mental health.
Si Donnelly, 48 started the TALK Ourselves WELL Man Supportive Collective group one year ago today in an aim to address the issue of multiple male suicides and men suffering in silence.
The Man Support Collective turned one years old this week on Thursday, August 4 so members got together to celebrate and reflect on the journey the man have been on for the past 12 months.
The group started with two people sat around a campfire with a little gas stove for brews and the basics of a survival kit. Fast forward a year and there’s 1050 supportive, open men engaging with the support group in Darwen.
Si is passionate about advocating for ‘a revolution regarding men’s mental, emotional, spiritual and physical health’ in his hometown of Darwen. He said:
"I started Talk Ourselves Well as a response to losing some of my friends to suicide in 2019/early 2020. I attended his funeral and out of all the lads that attended only one of us was crying. I cried as I sat in my car alone, not wanting others to see my pain at losing my friend.
“Then it happened again and I decided I'd had enough and ended up writing a status on Facebook which was written around men and toxic masculinity and the need for us to Talk Ourselves Well to prevent more of our friends dying."
The community organisation receives no funding and has very little money, but that doesn’t stop the members from putting all of their effort and time into improving men’s mental health.
Si added: "We came up with the idea of a campfire because blokes have sat round fires talking since the beginning of mankind and there is something both primitive and comforting about sitting around a fire.
"It also removes the need for eye contact as people can just look at the fire and relax, rather than feeling the pressure of people's eyes on them.
"It so important to talk about men's mental health and wellbeing because a great deal of people suffer in silence, this comes from early years programming, such as 'boys don't cry, crying or showing emotion is weakness, the old British stiff upper lift, all very damaging to young minds. Unfortunately, a lot of blokes continue these beliefs thinking they are strong for' keeping it all in'.
"We think the opposite, the real strength is in men talking about their feelings and emotions, taking responsibility for their actions and behaviours, and empowering themselves and each other by taking accountability for themselves and their own health and wellbeing."
The group sessions take place between 6pm and 8pm every Thursday at Whitehall Park. After the first free session, each one costs only £3 and that includes pizza and brews.
The sessions welcome men over the age of 18 who want to get something off their chest, are seeking connection with others, or who just want to relax and involve themselves in some community work around the park.
The organisation is also running UNMUTE – a musical and suicide prevention awareness fundraiser that will be on during Suicide Prevention month in September.
The event will run over two venues, Sunbird Records and Number 39 Bar, with live acts, stalls and a talented line-up of DJs on Saturday, September 3.
Si added: "People often think that they are alone, we aren't, there are plenty of support for men's mental health in our local area so get involved if you're struggling!"
TALK Ourselves WELL is looking for individuals and businesses to sponsor their event in September. For more information visit their Facebook page.