International Men’s Day 2023: Supporting men’s mental health with Hope
To coincide with International Men’s Day this year, we sat down with Sam Remington, Hope Project Worker, to talk about the Hope Project and its impact on men’s mental health.
Can you tell us a little about your role and how long you’ve been at Second Step?
I’ve been with Second Step for three years and all of them have been with the Hope Project. My primary role is as a project worker.
What is the Hope Project?
The Hope Project works short-term with men between the ages of 30 – 64 who have experienced suicidal ideation, who self-harm and /or are experiencing psychological distress as a result of their finances, employment or housing.
Many of the men we come into contact with are not known to statutory or other mental health services and the reason(s) they may be in distress can be as varied as life itself.
Researchers from the NIHR Applied Research Collaboration West (NIHR ARC West) used questionnaires to compare how men felt before and after being in the Hope project for six months. The questionnaires focused on depression, suicidal thoughts and whether the men felt in control of their finances. They also interviewed the men using Hope and the staff delivering it.
So, I feel that whilst it is nice to have a reputation that precedes us, we do our very best to make that impact as much as possible for all our clients.
What can someone expect when they reach out to the Hope project?
Our clients can expect a bespoke service tailored very much around the individual needs of the each client.
We offer a space to help men process the issues they face and while we are not counsellors, we do offer a level of emotional support in our sessions which can be carried out in person, over the phone or via electronic platforms such as Zoom. We acknowledge that reaching out for help is often harrowing and so we work to what best suits the individual needs of our clients.
We also seek to work on behalf of men to ease these practical difficulties. Mental breakdown can often be followed by difficulty in dealing with daily affairs which many men would have been able to manage for the large part of their lives. Consequently, our role is tailored to those individual needs.
We can come into contact with many different professionals pretty much daily, from GPs, housing officers, police officers, probation officers, solicitors, mental health professionals, the Department of Work and Pensions (DWP) and specialists involved with processing applications, as well as being able to access funding ourselves and communicating/liaising with specialist counselling services. We also recognise the importance of wellbeing and so try to link in with as many of those services such as the Bristol Wellbeing College, also run by Second Step.
I also hope it is apparent to our clients that our team has a lot of knowledge, skilled at communicating with various services. This knowledge of specialists is important and while many organisations come and go, we have to keep tabs on what is available when resources are often stretched. Building up a local network of support and knowing where to signpost men for additional help can often mean we become a bit of a launch pad, where other horizons and opportunities open up for those in distress.
How have you seen attitudes towards men’s mental health change in recent years/in your time at Second Step?
I think attitudes are changing and certainly it has been a revelation for myself, seeing the diversity of men that have come through the door . I think there is still a long way to go, and it is still very evident that for some men, it is not only the first time they have been in touch with an organisation like ours, but in some cases the first time they have ever spoken about their distress to anyone.
There is still a lot of damage done however and given that we live in very challenging times, it is my hope that men continue to open up about their mental health.
What would you say/suggest to any men struggling with their mental health at the moment?
A proper mate will always want to hear and to have you in the world here than lose you to poor mental health or worse.
Check in on your friends, start conversations around mental health and normalise this and make clear how available you are for a good pal. As you get older, a few good friends are the equivalent of gold dust.
Try and stay focussed on what is important and go easy on yourself when the going gets tough. Realise that things you have managed before, you will manage again but any period of distress / breakdown will require some rest and recalibration.
Think of things that have helped before and remember you are not alone. What was once common was for lots of men to not talk about their mental health, whereas now they do. That is the only difference because the idea that these problems never existed before is false; they did exist but there was no outlet considered acceptable for men to talk about these things.
The last thing is to remember that there will have been things in your life that mean something to you; perhaps a hobby or a skill of some sort…indulge in them and be proud of yourself and build the confidence to allow yourself both to retain the things on your life you love and enjoy, and jettison other things that make you unhappy or no longer work for you.
Forging new parts of ourselves is a journey in itself and sometimes it takes something as profound as serious mental distress, even breakdown, to be able to move on and make a different version of ourselves.