‘For Men To Talk’ encourages men to talk about mental health

By ITV Anglia’s Callum Fairhurst

A group of men facing mental health issues or grief say meeting up to talk about what they are going through has helped them to deal with their own difficult situations.

The group was set up by Luke Newman, who became depressed and anxious after the death of his mum and sister from cancer.

He had already benefitted from speaking to others and decided to find a group he called simply For Men to Talk.

And the Bedfordshire-based group does what it says – offering a chance for men to meet up weekly online to talk, but once a month they also come together to have a walk and chat in person.

Some of those that take part say it has been a saving grace.

Mr Newman, founder of the group, said: “Not only do we talk about how we’re feeling, but we also talk about movies, TV, football, and have a few dad jokes as well.

“It improves our mental health. We start off with a cup of tea, go for a walk for an hour and half, have another tea and a cake and go on our merry way and hopefully feel better.”

And many people that join the sessions say they are a huge help, among them Steve Whitney, whose son took his own life in February 2020.

He said: “I went initially to establish where I was with my own mental health. I didn’t know whether I was coping well with my son’s death or if I was hiding behind myself.

“There are times when we’re very low, and they’re the times we get in deep and help each other.”

That spirit of camaraderie is what the group promotes to help others get through their toughest times.

Their main message is that whoever you are “there are people out there that will listen – don’t be afraid to talk”.

Mental Health Awareness Week

Today marks the start of Mental Health Awareness Week and although we believe that everyone should be aware of theirs and other peoples mental health all year round, we thought it would be a good idea to reintroduce ‘For Men To Talk’ and what we bring to men locally.

The Mental Health Foundation campaign this year focuses on loneliness, with the hashtag #IveBeenThere. It will hopefully give a chance for us all to share our experiences and feel a little less alone with our thoughts.

About For Men To Talk

‘For Men To Talk’ is a Community Interest Company, a non-charitable limited company, which means that we provide a benefit to the community and report back on this every year to Companies House.

About the Founder   

Luke Newman lives in Potton, Bedfordshire. He has personally suffered for a number of years with grief and anxiety since losing his mother, aged 54, and sister, 44, both to cancer. However, he feels fortunate that he could admit my illness, as sadly a lot of men are not able to do so without the support that a group like ‘For Men To Talk’ provides.   

Having already been through counselling and therapy, Luke recognised that there weren’t any groups for men to simply talk. This was a major driver in him founding the ‘For Men To Talk in December 2019, giving men who are suffering with anxiety, depression and grief the opportunity to talk with other fellow sufferers about their situation, provide support for each other and improve their well-being.    

They started with just one group, face-to-face and now have an average total of 15 men attending per meeting, which of course went virtual during the pandemic.  

As things are returning to normal, ‘For Men To Talk’ meetings remain virtually every Wednesday as well as back to physical meetings. 

Meetings 

• 1 x Virtual Group Meeting per week

• 2 x Physical Group Meetings per month at The Crown Hotel (Wetherspoon) in Biggleswade, Bedfordshire  

• 1 x Physical Group Meeting per month at St Neots Golf Club in Cambridgeshire

• 1 x Physical Group Meeting per month at The Cambridge Belfry in Cambourne, Cambridgeshire

• 1 x Group ‘For Men To Talk… and Walk’ per month. Starting at Jones’ Cafe in Biggleswade, Bedfordshire  

Awareness

‘For Men To Talk’ raises awareness of mental health by:   

• Encouraging men to undertake the four pillars of wellbeing, which are sleep, exercise, stress management and nutrition, to improve mental health.   

• Posting daily supportive social media quotes accompanied by a photo. This is designed to motivate and maintain positive mental health.   

• Providing safe, supportive and confidential environments where men can talk freely about their mental health illness.   

• Providing information recognising the symptoms of male cancers.   

• Keep the ‘For Men To Talk’ website updated, with continual updates. This includes blogs discussing various issues of mental health for men.   

The Mental Health Moles Book   

Luke Newman has designed, written and self-published a book titled ‘The Mental Health Moles’, which is suitable for men, women, boys and girls of all ages. He wrote this book to raise awareness of mental health for men, about ‘For Men To Talk’ and to raise much needed revenue for our early days of the CIC. He undertook a very successful crowdfunding campaign to raise funds for the first print of the book, and they are now sold on Amazon Kindle and print, via market stalls and craft fayres. He has also been approached to talk about the book at local schools. All profits go to ‘For Men To Talk’.   

Recently, ‘For Men To Talk’ has received financial funding from The Heads-Up community grant fund which is part of BLMK ICS NHS England Suicide Prevention Funding. See https://bbc.in/3Np6Rjt for further information

For further information on all of the above, please contact ‘For Men To Talk’ on formentotalk@hotmail.com or via 07709 446480.

Can you help get ‘The Mental Health Moles’ to children in Kenya?

‘For Men To Talk’ founder Luke Newman returns for his 7th trip to Nakuru in Kenya volunteering with Derby County Community Trust & African Adventures in May 2022.

With living in a deprived environment, with no clean water and electricity and little food and water, it must be a huge burden on mental health.

Valentine, founder and headteacher at West End Destiny Academy is asking for books. Luke would like to take 50 copies of his book ‘The Mental Health Moles‘ to try and comfort the young children of ‘West End Academy’. That’s just £3 per book!

The book sees the moles have 52 discussions, filled with advice about mental health topics, such as anxiety, depression, grief, social media, stress, sleep and many more. They are accompanied with brightly coloured and boldly drawn illustrations.

To do that, he needs to raise £150 for the print of the books. Are you able to help him reach that total? If so, please donate at: Fundraiser by Luke Newman : ‘The Mental Health Moles’ for children in Kenya

Click here to read all his blogs from his previous visits to Kenya or see his YouTube video below.

Prostate and Testicular Cancer – The Signs!

Across the world, one man dies by suicide every minute of every day, with males accounting for 75% of all suicides. In relation to cancer, unchecked, prostate cancer rates will double over the next 15 years and globally, from the current rate of 12,000 deaths every year right now.
It is vital that men understand their physical health, as well as their mental health.

With that in mind, on Wednesday 27 April, ‘For Men To Talk’ welcomed Allan Roper and Robin Giles from Prostate Cancer UK to their virtual meeting.

Prostate cancer occurs in the prostate gland, the gland that produces the fluid that makes up semen. Tumours are often slow-growing and highly treatable. More than 50,000 men are diagnosed with prostate cancer every year.

The risk of developing prostate cancer increases with age, especially over 50 years old. 1 in 8 white men and 1 in 4 black men will have prostate cancer in their lifetime.

For those who have a family history (a brother or father with prostate cancer), they are 2.5 times more likely to get it. For men whose mother or sister have had breast cancer, chances increase too.

A PSA test is a blood test to help detect prostate cancer. The test, which can be done at a GP surgery, measures the level of prostate-specific antigen (PSA) in your blood. PSA is a protein made only by the prostate gland. Some of it leaks into your blood, but how much depends on your age and the health of your prostate.

You can download a PDF file of the symptoms poster of prostate cancer here

Our founder, Luke Newman’s Father, Steve, had testicular cancer at the age of 33 and Luke was just 4.

Typical symptoms are a painless swelling or lump in one of the testicles or any change in shape or texture of the testicles.

The swelling or lump can be about the size of a pea or slightly larger. Most lumps or swellings in the scrotum are not in the testicle and are not a sign of cancer, but they should never be ignored.

Luke said: “It was on a Christmas Eve, I must have been 19 and having a bath, when I found a small lump. The natural first reaction is panic, but I know I had to get it checked out. I know, even though still rare, that I am four times more likely to develop it than someone with no family history of the condition, because of Dad’s previous diagnosis.”

“I immediately made an appointment with my general practitioner (GP), who then organised for me to visit the radiography department at my local hospital. Three weeks later, the radiographer examined my lump and cancer was ruled out. The procedure was completely pain free, however the lubricating gel that was placed on my scrotum was a bit cold though!”

Other symptoms of testicular cancer includes an increase in the firmness of a testicle, a difference in appearance between one testicle and the other, a dull ache or sharp pain in your testicles or scrotum, which may come and go and a feeling of heaviness in your scrotum.

There are around 2,300 new testicular cancer cases in the UK every year. It’s the most commonly diagnosed cancer in young men in the UK. You can download a PDF file of the symptoms poster here.

The best time to check yourself is after a warm shower or bath as your skin is most relaxed and should be checked at least once a month for lumps or swellings. Men get checking!

The great news is that both cancers have high cure rates and can be successfully treated, as long as the cancer is detected early and has not spread to other parts of the body. This emphasises the importance for men to visit their General Practitioner (GP). Not just for recognising the symptoms of these cancers, but for anything that just doesn’t feel right.

The Importance of St John’s Hospice to ‘For Men To Talk’ Founder

By ‘For Men To Talk’ founder and director, Luke Newman

Sue Ryder St John’s Hospice is in Moggerhanger in Bedfordshire. They provide expert care for life-limiting conditions, for those who need it. They also support their family and friends. They help with everything from pain and symptom management to emotional and practical help.

It’s a place that I know very well. I’ve had friends and family use the facilities that they offer. My Nan passed away there after a very short stay and my sister stayed their for a few days during her cancer treatment. But it was my Mum who spent the longest time at St John’s, cared by the most incredible nurses and volunteers, as she lost her battle with ovarian cancer.

Today marks nine years since I ran the London Marathon in aid of Ovacome, an Ovarian Cancer Support Charity and I was able to raise £6000 thanks to some amazing donations. I know the importance of fundraising for charities and that St John’s Hospice needs to raise over £1 million each year to meet the unfunded day-to-day running costs. An incredible amount of money.

I was able to receive some bereavement support from St John’s Hospice when I lost my Nan, a few years after Mum passed. I was very close to my Nan and visited her frequently, she’d seen many losses on her life, including her daughter and son and I didn’t want her to be lonely. A volunteer from the hospice was able to listen to how I was feeling over a number of sessions and was a huge help in my grief recovery.

It’s been a few years since then and with becoming a husband, father, fundraising for my humanitarian trips and launching ‘For Men To Talk’, I haven’t visited the hospice for a long time.

It was a chance encounter at a networking meeting that I met Joanne Landucci, Senior Community Fundraiser at St John’s Hospice and I was able to explain to her what the Hospice meant to me and that I would be forever grateful for the care that they have provided to my family, friends and for me personally.

From that gratitude, ‘For Men To Talk’ have donated five copies of ‘The Mental Health Moles’ books to the bereavement team. As well as grief, the book has 52 discussions, filled with advice about mental health topics, such as anxiety, depression, social media, stress, sleep and many more. I’m hopeful that the team will give a book to those who need a copy, which will help them, just like the team helped me all those years ago.

For further information on Sue Ryder St John’s Hospice, please visit: https://bit.ly/FMTTSJH

For further information on ‘The Mental Health Moles’, please visit: http://www.formentotalk.co.uk/mhmoles/

One Year Anniversary of the Launch Challenge that instigated ‘The Mental Health Moles’ Book

It’s hard to believe that the Launch Challenge that instigated ‘The Mental Health Moles’ Book started one year ago today! Read the blog at https://bit.ly/FMTTB22

In April 2021, I worked with Shifties, who help to enable business owners to connect, learn, and grow with their businesses together to take an idea and publish a book.

Six months previously to the start of the ‘Launch Challenge’, I used my love of the Mr. Men books and designed two cartoon moles, one with a bowler hat and one slightly smaller. I accompanied the moles and wrote a 4 page storyboard where the moles talked about different mental health illnesses and posted them on social media channels every Monday. All of a sudden I had around 20 different storyboards and I realised that this was my product!

Over the coming weeks, I researched, wrote and designed further stories, filled with topics, such as anxiety, depression, grief, social media, stress, sleep and many more, combining to make a total of 52 storyboards.

Once the designs were completed and text proof read and approved, I was able to get one hundred copies printed after a successful crowdfunding appeal. I also placed a digital version available on Amazon Kindle.

I didn’t really know who would the book appeal to. But I loved the idea of any generation, both male or female, boy or girl to understand there are lots of different kind of mental health illnesses and recognise in themselves if they are feeling like any of them.

Here are are just a few reviews that I have received after reading ‘The Mental Health Moles’ Book:
 
“I like The Mental Health Moles book because it is funny, colourful and cute. My favourite stories are about Christmas and Children. I learnt that it’s important for adults to talk to children about mental health because they might not understand what they are going through and that we need to talk about our problems when we feel bad like the story about Batmole! I took the book to school and read it to my teacher and classmates and they loved it too.”

“Simple but very effective. There are not many books out there that cover an age spectrum of 5 to 105 and is just as poignant for Male and Female. Every home should have one.”

“I have my signed copy on my coffee table and found my 6 year old Granddaughter reading it out loud today. Love that it is perfect for every age.”

“What is so clever, this is complicated stuff. This book should be huge. In four panels you’ve broken down mental health illnesses which is complicated, which others take chapters to discuss. It’s an artform.”

“You’ve taken subjects that so many people are scared of and you’ve hit the nail on the head, in a simple way.”

“I gave each of my kids (aged 7 and 9) a copy of the mental moles book and they’re really interacting with it. I’m already seeing that it’s opening up the conversations at home regarding mental health.”

“The mental health moles books is helping to normalise mental health more and helping to learn how to interact with others who have any kind of issues.”

“People have shelves of books they don’t read, but I reckon everyone who has this book reads it regularly because it’s so easy to read and so digestible.”

I am extremely proud of what I have achieved within the book over this last year. I am flattered by the amazing feedback that I have received. The next step will be to continue selling it via the ‘For Men To Talk’ meetings, social media, website, market stalls and craft fayres. But after being approached, I would really like the opportunity to talk about the book at local schools to highlight the need for boys and girls to talk about their mental health at early age.

‘The Mental Health Moles’ is available right now via:

£4.99 on Amazon Kindle via https://bit.ly/MHMOLES
£5.99 (+1.99p delivery) printed version via http://www.formentotalk.co.uk/mhmoles/
£10 (free delivery) signed and personalised printed version via http://www.formentotalk.co.uk/mhmoles/

All money goes towards supporting For Men To Talk who give men suffering with anxiety, depression and grief a chance to talk with other fellow sufferers.
 

For Men To Talk and the Virtual London Marathon 2022

One of the most important things of being fit, is that it relieves stress and eliminates depression. It’s something that is discussed frequently in our ‘For Men To Talk’ meetings, both virtually and physically.

With that in mind, I’ve been looking for an opportunity for the men in our group to work towards something. I can see the enjoyment and benefits of the attendees at our monthly ‘For Men To Talk… and Walk’ meetings, but I needed something for them to exercise regularly, up to a big event.

In 2013, I ran the London Marathon in aid of Ovacome, an Ovarian Cancer Support Charity. I lost my beautiful Mum who we lost nearly 17 years ago. I was able to raise £6000 thanks to some very kind donations. Even though it was tough and it hurt (a lot), I loved every single second of it, for my body and my mental health, and I would have certainly carried on running but for a knee injury.

In January 2008, seven years early, I had an operation on that same knee. Throughout my football career, playing a lot on Saturdays and Sundays for 15-20 years, I caused myself to have an inward facing patella (kneecap), which is referred to as a ‘winking patella’. It gave me knee pain, stiffness, progressive aching and grating pain and on some occasions, my knee didn’t lock or catch.

During the Covid-19 pandemic, the London Marathon has moved to October and also introduced a virtual event for those who don’t get a place through the ballot or charity place. This means that there is an opportunity to complete the 26 miles and 385 yards (42.195 kilometres) distance from home. You can do it with friends or on your own, in stages or all at once, just as long as the distance is completed at any time from 00:00 to 23:59:59 on Sunday 2 October 2022, the same day as the mass event in London.

That’s 24 hours, we could walk that! After putting the idea to the attendees of ‘For Men To Talk’, some have signed up to do it! A 12-week plan, leading to the big walk! It’s the incentive many of us need to get fit and improve our mental health. It will improve self-perception and self-esteem, mood and sleep quality, and it reduce stress, anxiety and fatigue.

At the same time, we will raise money which will go towards helping more men at ‘For Men To Talk’. https://www.justgiving.com/crowdfunding/FMTTLM

Hard to Forget a Negative Comment

By ‘For Men To Talk’ founder and director, Luke Newman

As I write this, I’ve just returned home. Today, I took For Men To Talk & The Mental Health Moles to Broom in Bedfordshire, just outside Biggleswade. I attended Jordans Mill – Monthly Craft & Food Fayre.

For the odd time that it was quiet, it gave me time to think. On 22 March, we announced that ‘For Men To Talk’ had received financial funding from The Heads-Up community grant fund which is part of BLMK ICS NHS England Suicide Prevention Funding. From the BBC News article that was written, it has lead to a number of Facebook comments, every single one of them positive… except one. 

The comment read “Look I think this group is great but getting NHS funding is too much. No wonder the NHS struggles for funds”. It hurt, it really did. Instead of taking all the other extremely nice, supportive and congratulatory messages and ignoring this one, I couldn’t. I kept thinking and re-thinking about it, over and over again. 

I’ve worked extremely hard in building ‘For Men To Talk’ from an idea in December 2019, to the, hopeful, 101 meetings planned in 2022. All I’ve wanted to do is to give a platform for men to feel safe and comfortable to talk about how they are feeling. To have a feeling that they aren’t alone and scared. From the feedback I’ve received from the men who have attended any of the meetings, they don’t feel alone anymore and they do feel that they can be open to talk about their mental health illnesses. My objective is being fulfilled. 

But this one comment, has left me confused. Why would this person have a negative view in ‘For Men To Talk’ receiving funding from the NHS? But, then a further comment answered my question. The family have had a bad experience with the NHS and felt that funding was lacking for what they needed. Were they angry with me or the system?

Like many things, I’m going to have to train my brain to move on. Think or see positivity to replace my negative thoughts. Instead of getting down about it, I need to re-read the amazing comments that I have seen and received from the many, many others. I need to become happy with them and use them as optimistic thoughts to replace my pessimistic ones. Practicing this over time, I’m hopeful that my mind will begin to focus on the good rather than this one bad.

I will re-read comments like

  • “Considering suicide is the single biggest killer in men under 45. I would say it is money well spent.”
  • “Spending £4198 will save the NHS money, less people needing to see their GP and less needing to access hospital services.”
  • “This is such incredible work Luke, this will absolutely be capturing people before their mental health escalates to crisis. There just are not enough MH beds or staff to manage the current demand, the money you have been awarded is a drop in the ocean compared to what is needed to manage just one person in crisis and/or requiring a bed. This kind of work is exactly what is needed, proactive, supportive, collaborative.”

From a distance, the outside view is that I just host the physical, virtual and walking meetings. That’s around 20 hours a month. But in reality, I do so much more than that. 

  • Group Meeting Posters – For every single meeting I design a specific, individual poster. I also modify it to suit Instagram. 
  • Social Media Posts – I design three positive posts per week to inspire men.
  • Social Media Scheduling – Plan and schedule all social media posts to post on specific days and times. I also share many of those posts to numerous Facebook Groups.
  • Newsletter – Design and post a weekly newsletter that is distributed to those who have signed up to receive it.
  • WhatsApp – Monitor the ‘For Men To Talk’ WhatsApp group. Look for signposts for men who need help.
  • Website – Continue monitoring and update the ‘For Men To Talk’ website
  • Blogs – I try and write a blog post every two weeks. Blogs with updated information about ‘For Men To Talk’ and mental health in general.
  • Promotion – I’m always looking to promote the group, writing relevant press releases, attend networking meetings, radio interviews, podcasts etc. This also means having a stall at craft fairs and give presentations at organisations such as ‘Rotary Clubs’ and ‘Chamber of Commerces’
  • The Mental Health Moles – I designed this book to raise funds for ‘For Men To Talk’, with that a lot of the above points go with it. The moles have their own social media channels where I continually  promote the book and design three positive posts per week to inspire men.

I’m probably forgetting other aspects too!

I’m not trying to justify to you, the reader, on what I do. But this is what it takes to fulfil my objectives, to give men a safe and comfortable environment to be able to talk about how they are feeling. I dread to think about how many hours I put in every month, as well as doing my normal full-time job. Sometimes that means sacrificing time with family, especially my wife and children, and friends.

The Heads-Up community grant fund covers for some marketing and hosting the meetings in 2022. It doesn’t cover all the extra work it takes. But I am extremely grateful and proud for the NHS believing in me and ‘For Men To Talk’.

My profit is seeing the improvement in the mental health of the men who attend any of the group meetings. For all the extra work that I personally do, it’s worth extra single second, when I see just one negative comment, I must remember that.

‘For Men To Talk’ receives funding as part of the HeadsUp Campaign

For Men To Talk, the peer support group, based from Potton in Bedfordshire, is delighted to confirm that they have received financial funding from The Heads-Up community grant fund which is part of BLMK ICS NHS England Suicide Prevention Funding.

As part of the HeadsUp campaign, For Men To Talk will continue their work, which they have been providing for over two years, to provide a safe and comfortable environment for men to talk about how they are feeling.

HeadsUp is a campaign to help men get happy and stay happy. It has been set up to help men identify and deal with issues that tend to crop up in life from time-to-time. The campaign targets middle aged and older men who have been identified as at higher risk of death by suicide. It is part of local suicide prevention work which aims to reduce suicides across BLMK.

Husband and father, Luke Newman, formed ‘For Men To Talk’ in December 2019, to get men talking about their anxiety, depression and grief. They have physical meetings at ‘Jones’ Café’ in Biggleswade and St Neots Golf Club, weekly virtual meetings via Zoom and a monthly walking event.

“The meetings are very informal”, said Luke. To improve the wellbeing of men, it is important to connect to people. As well as receiving emotional support, it allows men to support others. It helps to build a sense of belonging and self-worth and real friendships have been formed. With the funding received, we can help promote the HeadsUp campaign, whilst giving men the opportunity to talk at 100 meetings planned in 2022.”

“We know that when you are feeling low it can feel very isolating”, said Public Health Practitioner, Emma Bates. “1 in 8 men in England are estimated to have a common mental health condition. With the work that ‘For Men To Talk’ have and will continue to provide, it proves that men are truly not alone by reaching men in a place and in a way that they feel comfortable. We are really pleased to be supporting this valuable work through the HeadsUp community grant”.

‘For Men To Talk’ can be found on their website www.formentotalk.co.uk and social media channels. Luke is also available for any questions on 07709 446480. Further information on Heads Up can be found at https://thisisheads-up.uk/