Project members outside the 'Man Cave'

Thursday 10 September is Suicide Prevention Day across the UK. Every year organisations and communities around the world come together to raise awareness of how we can create a world where fewer people die by suicide. Each year has a different theme and focus, to bring to light a specific aspect of suicide prevention, this year’s theme is ‘Working together to prevent suicide.’

Martin’s Man Cave at The Martin Gallier Project was established in June 2019 and funded by People’s Health Trust in early 2020. The project works to break down the stigma surrounding mental health and thoughts of suicide whilst creating a safe, accessible support network for both men and women. In 2019 the Wirral Intelligence Service reported that 77% of local suicides were male. Martin’s Man Cave was established to provide an extra layer of support in a male only environment.

This informal, male only, peer support based group was going from strength to strength until the pandemic hit. The Man Cave team, which is completely user led, had to find creative ways to adapt to the current climate whilst ensuring that none of their men got left behind. Overnight they implemented new ways of communicating with the men they support. Ordinarily a Monday night face to face group; playing darts, table football and games consoles quickly transformed into a Monday night Zoom get together. The weekly sporting activity became a weekly online quiz. The “doors open, kettles on” ethos became “call us for a virtual brew” and the popular narrow boat trips became pleasant memories and plans for the future. Still, The Man Cave continues to support its members, with more men joining the project or being referred to the group during lockdown than even before.

CEO of The Martin Gallier Project Jessica Gallier said, “This Suicide Prevention week (and beyond) it’s important that we promote the positive mental health of men along with the physical. During this period with health anxiety being at an all-time high, we all seem to be asking each other how we are physically and if we’ve had any symptoms of Covid, we don’t seem to have any shame about asking. Let’s take that transparency and forward manner and start applying it to mental health, especially thoughts of suicide.”

Leader of the Man Cave Gary Bateman wasn’t surprised by the increase in demand for the service following lockdown measures being implemented, Gary said, “we support a wide range of men on a daily basis through both Martin’s Man Cave and The Martin Gallier Project as a whole. The main contributing factors that we see are financial concerns or hardship, relationship breakdowns, social isolation, and abuse of alcohol or drugs.

He continued, “The impact of Covid-19 and the lockdown seems to be that more and more of the men in our community and across the country are struggling with one or more of these areas. We have really had to ramp up the service to support them in the best way we can under the circumstances. We’ve used the time to make lots of plans for the future with our men and we can’t wait to get back out on the water for the signature Man Cave narrow boat outings.”

Project member and ‘Man Caver’, Lee said, “During lockdown whilst I was shielding as a vulnerable person and unable to leave the house at all, not even for the hour exercise that was allowed by the government, I knew my fellow mancavers were only a message away and knowing there was a place I could go and be understood, accepted and reassured, even though it was only a virtual place during this tough time, it saved me from feeling isolated. Being able to see a friendly face during our video chats was a real refresher in the scary world I was facing.”

Martin’s Man Cave is funded through the Trust’s Active Communities programme with money raised by Health Lottery North West.

Learn more about the project here

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