Breaking stigmas around mental health in Spalding area
Men’s Health Awareness Month is bringing South Holland together in a bid to break stigmas around mental wellbeing.
November marks a month dedicated to raising awareness on the issue, and is particularly important this year after mental health cases rose significantly during Covid-19 lockdowns.
Councillors and charities are encouraging those suffering to seek help – and for the community to offer all the support they can.
South Holland District Council chairman Paul Redgate is a big advocate for improvements in the way we deal with men’s mental health.
“I will keep banging the drum about it,” he said.
“I’m acutely aware of the impact of mental health issues – especially in men – and the fact that we aren’t particularly good at expressing emotion, or actually discussing it.
“We need to do something, and I focus specifically on men because that’s one of the biggest issues we have.
“Other than prostate cancer, suicide has one of the highest death rates for men.
“For the amount of people that have no way of reaching out or don’t understand how to, education on this is critical.
“If we have an issue, we shouldn’t be afraid to just pick up the phone and speak to these charities.
“If you are struggling, it’s not a sign of weakness. It’s actually a kind of strength to reach out and recognise the issue.”
Coun Redgate supports mental health organisation Mind as his chairman’s charity, and is set to host a quiz night this Thursday
(November 25) to raise funds for them.
He selected them after seeing a number of people close to him take their own lives after feeling unable to reach out, and says the cause is very close to his heart.
The district council is working on a number of schemes to improve support mechanisms for men, but Coun Redgate believes we all need to do our bit to tackle the issues.
“Engagement is critical. No-one should be looked down on for raising that they’ve got a problem, or even wanting to,” he said.
“A lot of it is fear, because men aren’t used to engaging emotionally. We’ve still got a stigma that’s out there.”
Ruth Taplin, who is the Safe Places coordinator for Spalding-based clinic Tonic Health, was just as firm when stressing the importance of raising awareness on men’s mental health.
“It’s huge. Women are very much more open about their concerns and their worries, whereas men do tend to internalise.
“Between men aged 25-50, suicide is one of the biggest killers. So when you give people those figures, it suddenly makes them realise it’s a real issue and men do have issues around mental health – and they’re not talking about it.
“I think it is the responsibility of everyone in the community to be listening to what other people are saying.”
She also believes that lockdowns imposed during the Covid-19 pandemic have had a major impact, adding: “When you’ve got people struggling with their mental health, I firmly believe wellness comes from community and connecting with other people.
“Being on your own can be very isolating with just you and your thoughts.”
The Safe Spaces scheme allows men to meet for a cup of tea, play games and enjoy a chat at Tonic Health’s premises.
“They can talk about their concerns with other men, which I think is a different environment to when you have them mixing with women,” said Mrs Taplin.
“When it is specifically a meeting group for men, it just gives them that space to talk – or not. If they want to sit quietly, they’re welcome to do that as well.”