About 120 delegates left a groundbreaking conference in Lincoln determined to help smash the stigma surrounding men’s mental health issues – which leads 84 men a week to commit suicide.
#ManChat, which was organised by NWCH and staged at The Showroom, off Tritton Road, featured professional speakers, intensely personal stories and in-depth workshops, which left participants hopeful that this trend can be reversed.
NWCH Co-founder and Chief Executive Naomi Watkins said: “Twelve men a day, 84 a week take their lives. This is shocking, and we need to do something about it. NWCH wants to lead the way in breaking the stigma associated with men’s mental health, and our #ManChat conference was just one way of encouraging people in Lincolnshire and beyond to talk openly and honestly about it.
The comprehensive conference programme provided reassurance for men suffering in silence and families worried about male relatives or friends that there is light at the end of the tunnel. It also provided extra encouragement for professionals offering counselling support.
Before lunch, the gathering heard from six speakers. First up was counsellor Michael Davis, who helps men to process grief and who said that society tends to stereotype those who are dealing with loss.
“There is no right or wrong way to grieve. Men feel awkward about showing their emotions due to social barriers put in place by society. Sometimes they may be considered weak or a ‘non-alpha’ male,” he said.
“But, people need to observe a man’s grief, read their emotions and give them space and love, because grief has no concept of time.”
Colin Hayward, whose mental health is currently improving, shared his experience of growing-up, He told how he had felt vulnerable and frightened, had been bullied, turned to drink, used drugs and ended-up feeling direction-less. He had been hospitalised and had tried to kill himself.
Being diagnosed as having a Borderline Personality Disorder (BPD) and Anti-Social Personality Disorder (APD), had given him insights and helped him to acknowledge the effects of his past.
You could hear a pin drop as delegates, including Stuart Brown (Life Begins at 50, 40 Years of Shame and Fear) told their stories. Stuart, who once lived in Lincolnshire, shared how he had been sexually abused as a young person. The perpetrator was eventually jailed for 20 years in 2016 for his abuse of Stuart and three others.
Stuart said: “I went through some very dark times. I didn’t realise how much the geography of a place can play in your mental health. In the 1970s male-on-male rape was hardly ever talked about. Nobody ever asked if it had happened to me, but it affected me in all sorts of ways, throughout my entire life.
“Being groomed today has changed. Technology has driven that. Online grooming gives perpetrators anonymity. It happens because parents are naïve about technology. There is peer pressure among kids with Apps and Social Media.”
Three highly-motivational professional speakers added an extra dimension to #ManChat.
Nick Elston’s keynote speech “Talking Anxiety” highlighted how he overcame Obsessive Compulsive Disorder (OCD), Anxiety and Generalised Anxiety Disorder (GAD) – where a person catastrophises daily events – to become a successful public speaker.
Nick urged other people to follow his lead and use these types of experiences to motivate themselves to take action and get help, adding that there is always hope and opportunities waiting. He also told delegates that it is vital to surround themselves with the right people and to be aware that an unexpected event can set them back, but it is resilience that will enable them to recover.
ParaTriathlete (swimming, cycling and running) Steve Judge’s uplifting and humorous talk (Tears Rolled Down but I Stood Up) provided real food for thought for anyone who had undergone a life-changing experience.
Steve told how his car skidded and crashed in 2002, leaving him hospitalised with two broken legs and a warning that he might the face the amputation of one and never walk again.
In the end, he underwent a partial amputation, but his legs were saved. However, he had to endure months and months of painful rehabilitation. Steve had always loved running, but for a long time that was out of the question. As he regained strength he did lots of swimming and cycling.
However, his commitment and determination paid off and eventually saw him compete in all aspects of the Paratriathlon and achieved the accolade of British, European and World Champion and conference delegates gave him a loud round of applause when he proudly held-up his medals.
Steve has now retired from international competition, but he is passionate about sharing his story and encouraging other people to overcome adversity, to achieve their own goals and happiness by “being the best they can be.”
UK’s number 1 motivational speaker and business networking entrepreneur Brad Burton
rounded-off the speakers with an energetic delivery that left no-one in any doubt that it is possible to recover from mental illness.
Brad left school without any qualifications. For 31 years, his life was nothing to write home about. He spent years on benefits, hit the bottle, took drugs and even got shot at twice. At one point his marriage was in danger of breaking down.
One day he decided enough was enough. He had to change his life story for the better. It was challenging but Brad went on to found the highly successful 4Networking business group, has written several books and is in constant demand as a speaker and mentor.
“Things will change, but you have to change the record and reprogramme yourself. The first person you have to convince of your own brilliance is yourself. You need to find your enemies, the things that hold you back, like fear and jealousy and let them go,” said Brad.
He said it is important for anyone trying to improve their lives to ask themselves if they are currently making the best use of their time.
“Ask yourself where your GPS is today. Get the framework (of your life) in place and the bigger picture will paint itself,” he said.
#ManChat also included lively, in-depth workshops, which gave conference delegates the opportunity to thorough explore the issues of anger, grief and suicide.
NWCH is a Community Interest Company based on Lincoln’s Allenby Business Park. has a 26-strong team working out of the centre, including a six-strong management team.
In its first year, the 18-months-old CIC received approaching 600 referrals from charity organisations, schools, Macmillan Nurses, GPs, drug and alcohol services and other medical professionals. It is now approaching 600 referrals since April 2017.