Men’s Health Unlocked is on a mission to improve male’s wellbeing
A group which tackles men’s health is helping blokes open up about their wellbeing issues.
Men’s Health Unlocked (MHU) aims to bring individuals and organisations together to address male health inequalities.
MHU coordinator Damian Dawtry pointed to the Leeds Suicide Audit which shows that men in Leeds are five times more likely than women to take their own life. He also said men die on average three years younger than women and are more likely to die prematurely from nearly every single disease that are common to both genders.
But Damian stressed that a lot of the concerns MHU addresses, like loneliness and the impact of redundancy are common to both sexes. He feels working together for the common good is by the far the best approach, adding “Together with our allies at Women’s Lives Leeds we can really strengthen taking a gendered approach to supporting health in Leeds.”
MHU is co-ordinated by Forum Central, a network of health and social care third sector organisations in Leeds. The project, which has received help from the National Lottery Community Fund and Harnessing the Power of Communities, has three main aspects to its work.
The first is ‘Unlock Online’, a digital inclusion project with Barca-Leeds. They acquired 100 Internet-enabled tablets which have been given to vulnerable and digitally isolated men in Leeds.
Damian said: “In the shadow of Covid, these tablets have been extremely useful for linking these men into social opportunities, into accessing health information and just having vital contact with the outside world.
“A lot of work which has been taking place in Leeds regarding mental health has been around isolation. A lot of that has been because of the direct link between isolation and poor mental health and indeed suicide. People living on their own are more likely to take their own lives than people living with others.”
Another strand is ‘Unlock Offline’ with Touchstone who provide mental health and wellbeing services. ‘Offline’ has a helpline (07909 254607) to assist men with any issues. It also arranges activities for isolated men. Touchstone was aiming to do this in person but the pandemic has meant it has had to look at virtual solutions of bringing people together. Damian said: “We have seen our partners doing really well at overcoming challenges. One of the beauties of the network is we are a collection of quite small to medium organisations and we are very nimble footed.”
The final part of the jigsaw is The Unlocked Magazine which is part of the Manbassador Project. Both are spearheaded by the Orion Partnership. Manbassador is a scheme where businesses point their regular male customers towards services and activities that might help them with their health and wellbeing. Whereas the magazine, which comes out every three weeks and has a targeted distribution of 5,000 copies, helps inform, educate, and entertain. Topics range from Covid news, health activities, to recipes.
All these different strands combine to help bring people together to discuss issues and to bond with their peers.
Damian said while there was still an element of men who are reluctant to open up about their concerns, it was about finding the right space for those conversations to take place.
He said: “I think men are becoming better at opening up. Talking about mental health is becoming more common currency for people.”
Men’s Health Unlocked (MHU) was launched last November.
It strives to address the health and wellbeing needs and activities of men from all backgrounds in Leeds.
One of its key partners is Prof Alan White, Emeritus Professor of Men’s Health at Leeds Beckett University (LBU).
Prof White, who is on MHU’s steering group, co-wrote The State of Men’s Health in Leeds report. It is part of a project between the Centre for Men’s Health at LBU and Leeds City Council.
MHU coordinator Damian Dawtry said Leeds has a great track record of addressing men’s health and wellbeing. The MHU network provides a vital opportunity for organisations and individuals to share what they have learnt.
He added: “Leeds has a great reputation for pioneering men’s work, from the State of Men’s Health to Orion’s Manbassador project, so we have the potential to be a beacon of best practice far beyond the confines of the city.”
MHU recently held an online networking event which drew together 54 people to discuss health and wellbeing needs.
One issue that Damian wants to hear about is the threat of redundancy. He wants to know how MHU can best support men who have lost their jobs and affected businesses. For more information please contact Damian on 07985 442630 or [email protected]