Phoebe Eckersley spoke to Cornish mental health charities about their practical, activity-based approach to tackling male suicide, after recent statistics by Cornwall Council showed the region is above the national average for men taking their own lives.
It is thought that between 60 to 70 men take their lives each year within Cornwall.
More broadly, men are three times more likely to commit suicide thus being biggest killer of men aged under 45, according to the Samaritans.
Jon Gladstone, Executive Director of the charity Carrick Mind, acknowledged the stigma attached to masculinity.
He said activity based projects which access men in the work place are effective because these are natural settings for men. For example, football club schemes or projects set at local docks.
Gladstone added: “One thing we are looking at is how we access men and try and get them to come forward to seek help. So I think we are going to look into the allotment scheme and perhaps activity orientated groups, so perhaps a walking group or something like that.”
This is a view similarly held by Daniel Newman, Operations Manager of the mental health organisation Sea Sanctuary. He felt discussion can only be fully held in natural spaces where men feel most comfortable because the stigmatisation of ‘being a man’ has existed for so long.
He suggests a discussive environment could draw out men’s feelings which have been internalised.
Newman said: “We should do meaningful activities away from every day life. Certainly people feel more relaxed and when they feel more relaxed, they are more likely to open up.”
“Whereas if you put individuals into very uninspiring places, people are less likely to talk about their feelings.”
Public sector organisations and charity work on this area have clearly had to find alternative methods to reach out to a demographic which have historically found it challenging to discuss their vulnerabilities.
Newman’s programme ‘Sail Into Life’ takes groups on a four day residential trip, where they carry out group discussions about mental health. Techniques of Cognitive Behavioural Therapy (CBT) and mindfulness teach individuals how to better cope in situations.
For Gladstone and Newman, these activities take the focus away from the men which traditional counselling and one-to-one sessions can do, allowing them to open up in their own time.