A new initiative encouraging men to talk about their mental health has been launched across Surrey. Get Men Talking hopes to end the stigma and discrimination around seeking help for mental health conditions, by equipping people with the skills needed to start and maintain supportive conversations. The online courses will also provide suicide awareness training, and details of the support available in the county. Commissioned by Surrey County Council Public Health, the programme will be delivered by Time to Change Surrey, supported by the Mary Francis Trust and Catalyst Support.
Suicide is the biggest killer for British men aged between 20-49 – with those in the 45-49 range most at risk – and the majority of those who die by this method are not engaged with any mental health services. Joe Stroud, from Time to Change Surrey, is the project manager for Get Men Talking. He said men often struggle to open up about their feelings, and this reluctance to speak to somebody contributes to the high death rate:
“I was shocked to discover men under 50 die through suicide more than anything else, more than heart disease, cancer or road accidents. Men find it harder to talk about their mental health, not only because of traditional attitudes such as ‘man-up’, but also because of the stigma around discussing how they feel. The magnitude is alarming – three times more men than women commit suicide – so we knew that we really needed to do something to connect with men. It is not to exclude women at all but we identified there was an issue here.”
Mental health difficulties affect one in four people at some point during their life, but many people recover from them, particularly if they are able to access support. The campaign wants to ensure that everybody recognises the signs that somebody is struggling, and is able to intervene and save lives.
The team are particularly looking to encourage people in occupations with high ratios of male staff and clients, such as construction, barbering, football and taxi driving, to get involved, so they can learn how to initiate conversations about mental health in those environments. To begin with, the project will focus on the three areas in Surrey with the highest risk of male suicide – Guildford, Woking and Elmbridge – but the resources are available to anybody who lives or works in the county.
In March, a series of free interactive workshops, including one specifically aimed at hair and beauty professionals, will take place over Zoom, offering training and guidance around mental health and suicide awareness. Through a mix of presentations, videos, group activities and discussions, participants will learn how to understand the risk factors and warning signs of suicide, as well as gain the confidence to talk to, and support, anybody they feel may be struggling with their mental health.
Get Men Talking is open to anyone who lives and/or works in Surrey, and includes signposting to further resources, such as the 24-hour Crisis Mental Health Helpline, walk-in Safe Havens across the county, and the Stay Alive app. For more information and support visit www.endstigmasurrey.org.uk/mentalhealthfirst and www.surreycc.gov.uk/adults/mental-health/time-to-change.