High-Functioning Anxiety at Work

Many of us are struggling to maintain our mental well-being during the coronavirus (Covid-19) pandemic. We maybe experiencing difficult feelings and emotions, it could be about the government restrictions, losing loved ones to the virus, or even yourself getting sick.

But we all have monthly payments such as rent or mortgage and utility bills to pay, so many of us continue to work, if we can. But our worries will continue and this can lead into an increase of anxiety at work.

High-functioning anxiety is commonly known at work. If refers to workers who live with anxiety but identify as functioning reasonably well in different aspects of their life. For instance, behind every perfect presentation and flawless project could be a huge mountain of worries.

A member of staff, who is impeccably dressed, not a hair out of place and may arrive in the office before anyone. They will look immaculate and ready for the day ahead.

They may look driven, committed, ready to complete any task and never miss a deadline. Their diary is full, but always willing to help others when asked. Nobody would ever believe something was wrong, because they always portrayed themselves as being fine.

What those co-workers might not know is that beneath the surface of that seemingly perfect exterior and work ethic, that person maybe fighting a constant case of anxiety. Their nervous energy could be a fear of failure, fear of not being good enough and even about losing their job. It drives them to try and be the best in every aspect of their working life.

If these characteristics sound familiar to someone at work, or even yourself, let’s look at what you might experience or what you may observe if you have high functioning anxiety.

Signs You’re an Overachiever/Perfectionist

Characteristics of people with high functioning anxiety that are often thought of as positive include:

  • Has an outgoing personality. Is happy happy, a joke teller and smiles and laughs frequently.
  • Punctual. Being able to complete a required task or fulfil an obligation before or at a previously designated time.
  • Proactive. Will plan ahead for all possibilities. As Benjamin Franklin said “By failing to prepare you are preparing to fail”.
  • Organised. Making lists or keeping calendars. Planning things carefully and keeping things tidy in all aspects of their work.
  • High achieving. Being dynamic, ambitious and being as successful as you can.
  • Detail-oriented. Being able to pay close attention and notice minor details. Giving a task undivided attention and catch mistakes or errors.
  • Active and helpful. For instances, always volunteers for the coffee run.
  • Appears outwardly calm and collected.
  • Passionate, pursue it daily with a mixture of enthusiasm and discipline.
  • Loyal. Sacrificing time and interest to put more energy into work.

Signs of Negative Characteristics

Characteristics of people with high functioning anxiety that are often thought of as negatives include:

  • A people pleaser. Being afraid of driving people away, fear of being a bad friend, spouse, and employee and fear of letting others down.
  • Talking a lot, including nervous ‘chatter’.
  • Nervous habits, such as playing with hair, cracking knuckles and biting lip.
  • The need to do repetitive things, such as counting stairs or rocking back and forth.
  • Overthinking. Thinking too much about your problems, mistakes or shortcomings
  • Lost time, like arriving too early for appointments)
  • The need for reassurance, making sure an employer is happy with their work.
  • Procrastination. Delaying an important task, usually by focusing on less urgent, more enjoyable and easier activities.
  • Avoiding eye contact
  • Inability to say ‘No’. Always having an overloaded schedule, being constantly busy
  • Insomnia. Difficulty falling asleep or waking early and being unable to fall back asleep.
  • Being found to be ‘difficult to read’, such as unemotional or cold.
  • A limited social life. Turning down invitations to afterwork activities.
  • The inability to ‘enjoy the moment’ and being unable to relax.
  • The tendency to compare yourself to co-workers. A feeling of falling short of expectations.
  • Mental and physical fatigue

If you’re concerned about yourself or a colleague and have decided to say something. Your options could be:

  • See what support may be available from your employer.
  • Confide in a colleague you can trust.
  • If you see someone in distress or behaving out of character, take them aside discreetly and ask if they’re OK or if you can help.
  • Seek professional help, from a doctor or other professional if things are particularly tough.

Fast paced London job and how ‘For Men To Talk’ has helped

I work in a fast paced, high performing cultured job whereby the standards of my peers and stakeholders were alot higher to what I ever experienced before. I had been in this role for 3 years prior and seemed to have managed to keep my head above water and hid things very well from my peers and management.  Despite having an 18 month old daughter and life was good, I could feel that there was always a dark cloud following me around and I couldn’t pinpoint exactly what the problem was.

During November 2019 suddenly things took a turn for the worse. Leading up to Christmas is our company’s ‘Year End’ and work and expectations were ramping up rapidly.  I am a very organised individual, this is where my OCD comes into play, and I acknowledge the traits I have is a part of me. I’ve been told by successful work colleagues and directors that “this isn’t a bad thing and makes you good at your job”. Whilst this validation is reassuring, it can also be a curse having to check work thoroughly and keep on top of lists and emails. It is tiring and exhausting but its part of my DNA, as a few family members share these traits.   

Suddenly work was getting on top of me and I felt like I was losing control. This led me to suffer mild panic attacks and many sleepless nights.  I am generally a very open person and very social, but things were changing, I didn’t want to see friends or family. I am not one for climbing the career ladder or earn a high salary, this wasn’t important, I just wanted to be content in myself and stay positive. What was important in mind was to provide for my family and be comfortable.  My wife was heavily pregnant at this time, so subconsciously there were more pressures to add into the mix.

At the start of 2020, work was still at the forefront of my mind and I had adopted a ‘tunnel vision’ approach to life, predominantly work. The anxieties grew more and more and the feeling of nervousness of refreshing emails in the morning and attending important meetings and problem solving became overwhelming. These thoughts were completely disguised from my bosses and relevant teams. To them all, it seemed that I had it all together and confident in what I did in my work. 

As we approached February 2020, a critical time of the working year, it’s during these dark winter hours which triggers my mood to worsen and nothing would lift me out of this slump, I felt that life was moving at 100mph, with the incoming news of a house move and my wife being pregnant with our second child.

I’m very fortunate that my wife recognised the change in my mood patterns and was so supportive, despite being very heavily pregnant and having a toddler, who is a little dynamo running around the place!

By chance or fate or whatever you believe in, I noticed a social media post titled ‘For Men to Talk’, discussing anxiety, grief and depression, things I believe I have encountered at some stage during my life. My wife also heard about this group from her friend and strongly encouraged me to go and see whether this would help. 

My family had always had that approach of keeping a lid on things and have the stiff upper lip but I felt that I could express myself openly and honestly as I can. 

‘For Men to Talk’ was having a group meeting at a local cafe. I am normally a very social and interactive person but I had doubts, I didn’t know anybody, what would people think if they knew and where is my life heading? Upon walking in to the cafe, those feelings dispatched almost immediately and I was amongst men who were had the commonality of suffering any of these mental health issues. The group had 20+ guys and I didn;t feel alone.   A huge burden had lifted, but then almost overnight, the global pandemic hit us all.

It was at this time, life morphed into something completely different and I was at a real crossroads in my life.  My colleague had decided to move to Australia and this in turn left me with even more work. My anxieties went to an all time high, worrying about the ramifications of her departure and how this would affect my working life.

From these chain of events, it overshadowed the offer of a new house being accepted and the birth of our son, two monumental occasions in life, being overridden by my worries of work and how I would cope. 

Fortunately, the ‘For Men to Talk’ weekly meetings were moved virtually, communicating online would become the new normal, such as Zoom and Microsoft Teams. The founder, Luke, had an incredibly moving story, but has always been open with his journey, unlike most men, and that’s why he formed the group.

It was something I was craving for. It was a safe space for all us men to talk about how we felt and sharing the highs and lows of the week.  This was a great initiative and it felt good getting things off my chest and not being judged for anything I said or did.

As the group gathered momentum, it was clear that more men were struggling with different things in their lives as well as lockdown. Luke has an amazing quality of being a superb host and bringing everyone together and should be applauded on this. The regulars would come and revisit and now a year on I can really see the benefit in everyone, as well as myself.  There have been times whereby the stories have become so moving it has been emotional and we can all pat ourselves on the back for making this first step and that we are not alone. 

I have benefitted whereby this has become a important part of the week and have met some wonderful people in the process. I have made a few necessary changes to improve my mental health by finishing work at my scheduled times and really putting my friends and family higher in my priorities.

I am fascinated by people and love to see how the dynamics work in a group. There is such a diverse group of men and I’m sure that I can speak on behalf of all of them to say it has helped them as much as it has helped me.  We are now talking to people not only in the country but across the pond in the USA.  It’s a very therapeutic thing to listen to the stories and humbling at the same time.

I would like to personally thank Luke and ‘For Men to Talk’ and long may it continue with your hard work and dedication to help men open up. It does help to talk.

A year on….

1 year = 8,760 hours = 525,600 minutes = 31,546,000 seconds .

The 24th February 2020 is a date that will be forever etched in my memory, it is a date that sticks, like a birth, a celebration, a promotion or a date of significance. For me, this is the date when I was going to end my life.

I had not planned this course of action, the day started like most. The same routine: get up, wake up, get feed, washed, dressed etc. It was an overcast day but that was expected in February. Now if am totally honest when looking back, I was not in a great place, but at the time I didn’t realize it at the time.

Various things had been going on in my life. Work and home was incredibly stressful. We all have our problems to deal with, some people deal with them better than others. In my case I had not dealt with a lot of issues going back many, many, years, I can see these now.

All these little things, little issues, keep getting put into a box. The problem is that box only has so much space, it will overfill.

I bottled a lot of feelings, emotions, trauma, death, moods, depression, the list is endless. You then get to a point where the smallest thing could end up setting of a chain reaction of events, when that starts, it engulfs you, you feel out of control and thoughts and choices become very blurred and irrational.

My box overfilled, it burst, It exploded into millions of pieces. I was hearing voices, I was having conversations with myself. I left work on my lunch break, but I didn’t return for nearly 8 months.

During that lunch break, I sat in my car talking to myself, asking myself what to do. I was highly emotional and in a hyper state of mind and not thinking clearly. Then the solution to all my problems came to light, the solution was to walk out in front of a high-speed train. So at the nearby train line, I calmly got out of my car, I locked it and walked down towards the tracks. From this moment on, I had no perception of time and these bits of information were filled in by those that came to my aid.

Three hours had gone passed. I had dozens of missed calls on my phone, work had contacted my partner, she was trying to call but I didn’t notice my phone ring. I remember a feeling of the heaviest darkest cloud being around me, like it was wrapping itself around me tighter and tighter. I could feel myself somewhere deep down inside trying to fight the feeling. I was in emotional distress, crying, sobbing, being angry with myself, all I felt was the enormous weight of pain and despair and I was rooted to the spot.

For some reason which I will never know, I had a moment of clear thinking “How will they ID me?” It was at that point , but this thought made me take my wallet out of my pocket to check that I had any identification. As I opened my wallet, I was greeted by this beautiful face, my other half smiling at me. For a split second, I seemed to come to my senses, enough to make a part of me think, “what the fxxk are you doing mate?”

Train after train passed by, I was close to climbing the small railing, less than 4 paces from certain death. I called The Samaritans from my mobile. I had no idea how long I spoke to them or what I said. I remember a fear of not wanting to move as I didn’t know which way I was going to step, later I found out I had spoken to them for nearly an hour, they convinced me to call 999.

I did call 999, again I was frozen in my movement. The police wanted to find me, but they didn’t now where I was and I didn’t tell them. After an hour, they found me and this was the first step of so many in my journey.

The local Police Mental Health Triage Team picked me up. This was a van, accompanied by a police officer, mental health nurse and a paramedic. I was safe, for now, but I didn’t feel it. It is a very hard feeling to try and explain, but although I was in safe hands, I did not feel safe as I could not trust myself to not self-harm. It was dark when they arrived, I have no idea what time it was.

The Police had spoken to my other half during this time to let her know I was safe, I had come to no harm, but I wanted to end my life. I do not think I will ever understand the effect that that conversation has had on her.

From there I was taken to the local NHS mental health unit and was admitted voluntarily for a 5-day assessment.

So much has happened in the last 12 months, I do believe things happen for a reason, some of the circumstances that have touched us all this past year have affected people in a negative way, yet affected me in a positive way.

When I was released from hospital to the crisis home team, I moved out of the house I shared with my partner. This was to give both myself and her some space. What had happened was a traumatic event for us both of us and we needed time to get our heads around things and start the healing process.

Just a week or so later, it was March and then the first national coronavirus lockdown occurred. We both joined decided it was best for me to stay at my family home for lockdown. Looking back, this gave us both the time we needed. I was signed off work, my partner was furloughed, people sometimes say they need time, we had an abundance of it and it was exactly what we both needed.

A year has now passed since that day. I am not going to lie by just saying I am in a better place now and all is good, it has been bloody hard. The aftereffects of a crisis like I had are huge and it takes a long time to process and get through it.

For a long period, I felt shame. I did not want even my family or closest friends to know what had happened and that was tough on my partner. The best way to try and describe what my head was doing is like this. It was like driving down a motorway at 100mph, in thick fog and mud over the windscreen. I suffered very badly from sensory overload. Noise, bright lights, the smallest thing would send me into a spin. The panic attacks and anxiety, the feeling that I would never get better, waking up to the darkness every day. Sleep was a friend that had left me, many hours of being wide awake, yet so tired I could not function. Suicidal thoughts and graphic images of self-harm, voices in my head. Not giving me instructions but my own voice giving me self-doubt, hearing things in the distance that were not there.

I consider myself very lucky in all of this from the support I received. My General Practitioner (GP) was amazing, work were incredible and left me alone for a long time, it was nearly 5 months before I had a conversation with HR.

Slowly things improved. I learnt new skills to keep me grounded, tools to use when it became too much, but I had to fight with myself to keep on top. This is the real battle and a battle I continue to fight today. Adjustment takes a long time, routine is so important. The simple things like getting up at the same time each day, no matter how hard it is. Eating well, fresh air and gentle exercise.  

Pacing is important as well. It will sound weird, but one of the best bits of advice I was given was not to have too many good days back-to-back. When this happens, you have a natural high, a feeling of euphoria from the release of adrenaline and endorphins and when the effects drop off it’s a massive crash.

Communication with my partner was key in all of this. We had to talk, a lot of the talking was so hard and emotional. I suffered very badly from ‘fight or flight’ I did a lot of flight when it got tough but over time this got better. I could not have completed this journey without my partner, she was and still is my rock. So many times, I thought I had lost her but we both fought and will continue to do so today. Recovery from a crisis is a very long process and will need continual work, I think until the end of time.

Counselling is still a big part of my life, of both of our lives. My partner has been on her own journey with mental health, what happened to me was a trauma for her and it has certainly taken its toll on her. I am only now starting to really understand the ripple effect of my actions to those close to me. A mental health crisis in my eyes is not about one person, its like an emotional hurricane leaving a trail of emotional damage that needs fixing.

Talking is so important. Raising awareness is so important. Looking after yourself both physically and mentally is so important.

So where am I now 12 months down the line?

Back at work full time after the best part of 8 months off. I am back at home with my partner. The mental health battle will never stop, BUT I can see it now, I have accepted it, it’s part of who I am. I have accepted that I will have bad days and that I now let them roll, because tomorrow is a fresh start and I know it will be a better day. I have a greater appreciation of what is around me, people, nature. The simple things like feeling the morning sun on your face, listening to the bird chorus, those things we take for granted.

Take 5 mins in your day and just stop and listen to what is around you, learn to love life again in these difficult times.

Stay safe.

Importance of ‘Little Men to Talk’ too!

Here at ‘For Men To Talk’ we celebrate all the giving back from men who want to fundraise and say thanks to the organisations or charities that have helped them in their mental health journeys.

But check out little man 9-year-old Harrison. He has openly admitted to suffering from anxiety since the age of 3 and has received counselling from Young Minds.

Harrison has said “I have missed lots of birthday parties and play dates and sometimes can’t eat because I have been so overwhelmed. I used to struggle to sleep and didn’t like crowded places. I think this pandemic will be making children like me feel worse and I want to help them by supporting this wonderful charity. I will be walking 20 miles over the next 2 weekends to raise as much money as I can for Young Minds.

Isn’t it great ‘For Little Men to Talk’ too! We are very proud of you Harrison.

If you would like to donate, please visit at http://bit.ly/FMTTHYM

The Power of Football

Football brings people together. Men, especially, need it as a form of release. For men who have a mental health illness, football can be a much needed distraction from their dark thoughts and worries. It can lift spirits, especially when your team wins.

Even in the case of dementia, patients are encouraged to watch re-runs of their favourite historic football games. This can trigger memories and evokes emotions, not just about that particular game, but other personal activities that occurred in that particular time of their lives.

During the coronavirus crisis in 2020 and now in 2021, the national lockdown restrictions means we all have to minimise time spent outside our homes. It’s against the law to meet socially with family or friends unless they’re part of your household or support bubble. Many people have taken to watching boxsets and films to pass the time and football is no exception. Many men need need as much televised sport as can happen safely.

‘Positive stress’, is a positive health benefit, it’s similar to a moderate cardiovascular workout. If your team is successful, watching your team win also results in the lowering of blood pressure. It improves your mood, psychologically for at least 24 hours. On the flip side a loss resulted in an extended period of low mood and depression.

As the founder of ‘For Men To Talk’ I love football. I love the togetherness that the sport brings. I visit Kenya every year on a humanitarian trip.

In 2016, it was was Independence Day in Kenya. As a sign of the growth of Nakuru and for the first time in their 53 year history, the celebration ceremony hosted by the President was held at the local football ground, which was a few hundred yards down the road from resort, where myself and our group were staying.

Unfortunately security insisted that due to safety, we would remain in our resort all day instead of visiting the school that we were building. Although devastated, we fully understood and respected their decision. At the back of the resort was a field and we took a ball out for a kick-about. At 6.30pm we were due back to the resort for our dinner.

However as we packing away to finish, a tribe of Masai Warriors interrupted us. Yes MASAI WARRIORS, in full headgear, outfit, jewelry and spears. We thought that they needed the land for practicing for further celebrations of Independence Day. We were wrong! They wanted to play a match! 

They stripped off their full attire and they were ready! We played a 30 minute match, winning 4-2, but the score didn’t matter, the Masai Warriors were amazing. It was an amazing experience that I will NEVER EVER forget. It was very emotional. Before we both left, the Warriors performed their tribal dance and we joined in with them.

Although I am biased, because I love the sport, football is a universal game that brings people together both watching, especially during this coronavirus pandemic, and playing. The Masai Warriors couldn’t speak a word of English and we couldn’t speak their tribe language, but football was the communication.

Don’t be late to see the Doctor

Men don’t talk to each other. That’s what ‘For Men To Talk’ are trying to change. For the first year, since being founded in December 2019, we have really focused on men talking about their feelings and mental health and that will always be our number one priority. However, we have a responsibility to raise awareness of men’s physical health, as well as mental.

Many men don’t get medical check-ups because their health isn’t something they talk about. Most convince themselves that their condition will improve on its own, not wanting to ‘bother’ a doctor. Perhaps it’s fear of the unknown, that it maybe a bad diagnosis or a bad outcome. Men are much too casual about, and disinterested in their own health, and again that needs to change.

The UK, especially, have seen a significant increase in the rates of testicular and prostate cancer. It shows that there is perhaps an ignorance in the education of their symptoms. If men focused more on the value of checking for early sign or symptoms then the mortality rate of these cancers could be significant reduced.

The major health risks for all men include both prostate cancer and testicular cancer. 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.

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 47,500 men are diagnosed with prostate cancer every year – that’s 129 men every day.

The risk of developing prostate cancer increases with age. But men who are black, and those who have a family history (a brother or father with prostate cancer), are 2.5 times more likely to get it. You can download a PDF file of the symptoms poster here.

Testicular cancer occurs in the testicles, which are located inside the scrotum, a loose bag of skin underneath the penis. The testicles produce male sex hormones and sperm for reproduction. The most common symptom of testicular cancer is a painless lump on or in a testicle. 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.

As mentioned, early detection of these cancers is essential for successful treatment. 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.

Most males who have high blood pressure don’t know it. But having headaches, blood shot eyes or feeling generally unwell can be a sign. Lowering that pressure, with small changes, can make a big difference, as it reduces the risks of a heart attack or stroke.

Men are twice as likely as women to suffer from work-related stress. Stress on its own has a huge impact on health and add to this how men tend to shut off their feelings and ignore their mental health, it can be a ticking time bomb! Headaches, sweating, feeling tired or dizzy are just some of those stress related signs.

Men really need to stop making excuses. Stop blaming it on being busy, afraid of the body exams or even getting on the scales to see how much weight they’ve gained over the years! The earlier they seek a diagnosis, could really be the difference between life or death.

‘For Men To Talk’ 1 Year Anniversary

My name is Luke Newman and I am the founder and director of ‘For Men To Talk’. Today marks its one year anniversary of its launch and although it seems to have gone by in a flash, so much has happened.

I started it as I know how hard it is for men to be open with their feelings. I wanted men to feel comfortable enough to talk and give them a venue to do so.

As I was setting up the room at Jones’ Cafe in Biggleswade. I placed information leaflets from the Samaritans, MIND and CALM on a table in the corner. The biggest killer of men in the UK under 45 is suicide. One in four men have thought about taking their own life and over 40% of men suffer in silence, never sharing their feelings.

I was petrified. Not because I was afraid that nobody would turn up, but afraid that men wouldn’t take up the opportunity to talk. I was delighted to see that nearly 20 men attended that first group meeting. In the next couple of months, those numbers rose.

I’m not a professional, I’m not yet qualified, I will do so in the near future. But from the feedback from the attendees, is that they like that. As mentioned, I had information leaflets available from professionals, if or when the men needed them. But I think that lads liked that it was so informal, no rules, no regulations, no hard questions to answer. The subject could be anything, feelings, worries or even about sport or television, but the comforting thing was that all the men in that room had one thing in common. They were going through troubles, but they wanted to talk.

It was also a chance for men who have finished counselling sessions to continue their journey. A few were saying that although their therapy had been completed and personal growth had been achieved, they wanted to continue talking. The ‘For Men To Talk’ group sessions allowed that continuation.

I’d only been running the group for three months and in March 2020 I would receive £420 as a donation from Potton Colts under 15’s football side. They played a friendly game against Gransden FC at the local football stadium, underneath the floodlights. I couldn’t thank the players, managers, sponsors and spectators enough. Truly overwhelmed.

Then on 23 March 2020, the worldwide coronavirus disease (COVID-19) pandemic caused by severe acute respiratory syndrome, made our Prime Minister Boris Johnson announce a national lockdown and ordering Brits to stay at home. This meant banning gatherings of more than two people and closing all non-essential retail. It also meant that our physical group meetings were over.

I couldn’t let that stop the progress of the sessions and needed to think of an alternative. I was introduced to Zoom, a video and audio communications tool. This would allow ‘For Men To Talk’ to continue, in an online form.

However, the basic Zoom plan would only allow the meetings to last 40 minutes. We needed a premium plan which would give us unlimited minutes, but that cost £115.

Mulberry Homes is a privately-owned company that builds both residential and commercial properties. They have been building a new housing estate in my town and had seen advertising posts on Facebook pages. They very kindly donated £400, which paid for that premium plan.

So since 25 March 2020, every Wednesday men would continue their mental health discussions, but now virtually.

This has allowed us to welcome experts to join the meetings, who were able to present and suggest improvements and techniques on improving mental health. Experts have discussed grief, nutrition, exercise and also separation from a partner.

We have also discussed the importance of male cancer awareness and recognising the symptoms. A page is now dedicated on the ‘For Men To Talk’ website with downloadable PDF files recognising the symptoms of testicular and prostate cancer.

For nine months now, the virtual group meetings have been going from strength to strength and attracting men not just from the local area, but as far as Wisconsin in the USA. With current restrictions, due to coronavirus, these meetings with continue online for the foreseeable future.

I would like to take this opportunity to thank every single man who has attended the physical and virtual meetings. Hopefully you are seeing the benefits of talking about your feelings.

I would also like to that all the support from the public, for the kind words, for recommendations, for sharing social media posts, there is so many ways that you have helped.

To 2021, we maybe in unknown waters, but ‘For Men To Talk’ will keep swimming until we reach the shallow end and we can walk again.

Merry Christmas and a Happy New Year.

The Importance of Movember

Throughout November, you may have noticed men up and down the UK growing moustaches. You may of thought that it was a new trend, but you’d be glad to know that it wasn’t. They were all raising money and awareness for ‘Movember’.

Founded in 2003, the charity focuses on male’s mental health and suicide prevention, prostate and testicular cancer and has so far funded more than 1,250 men’s health projects around the world.

So every year, the month before Christmas, men are encouraged to grow moustaches such as the chevron, walrus, pencil or even the handlebar all to raise funds and awareness for men’s health.

The latest statistics from ‘Movember’ is that 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, testicular cancer is the most common cancer among men aged 15-39 years of age.

Our founder, Luke Newman, has participated in the awareness for many years. His Father, Steve, had testicular cancer at the age of 33 and Luke was just 4.

“It’s important for me to look ridiculous for a month”, Luke said. “It’s been over 35 years since my Dad found a lump and had successful treatment for his testicular cancer.”

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 of 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.

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!

For more information on Movember, please visit https://uk.movember.com/

For Men To Talk: Who, What, When, Why?

My name is Luke Newman and I live in Central Bedfordshire, England. I’m 39 years old and a very happily married man and father of three terrific sons.

So from afar, you think that I should have a spring in my step and not a worry in sight. Well in a lot of aspects, that’s true and I feel great. But deep inside I have worries and that eats away.

That’s the problem with mental health. From an outsider’s point of view, you may see a smile on someone’s face or a joke made by the funny man in your group and think that they are perfectly happy. When deep inside, they could be struggling and won’t open up! That needs to change!

I’ve struggled since losing both my Mum and sister to cancer over the last 15 years. It’s left me with grief and also anxiety. The difference with me to other men, is that I’m open with it. I will tell people of my struggles and what has caused it.

I’ve had counselling and also undertook cognitive behavioural therapy and it certainly helped my mental health. CBT helped me to manage my problems by changing the way I thought and behaved.

I recognised that there wasn’t any groups for men just simply to talk. So in December 2019, I formed ‘For Men To Talk’. It would give gentlemen the opportunity to be comfortable to open up about their worries with other lads going through similar issues.

At the start of 2020, group meetings started in Jones Cafe in a small town called Biggleswade. I was shocked, I want to say delighted, by the numbers that attended. I was happy that it looked like an avenue had been opened for the nineteen men to communicate and informally talk about their mental health.

I purposely had no experts on hand, just leaflets and contact numbers for professional groups, such as the incredible Samaritans, CALM and Mind (all of which are also on our website). I wanted the men to feel relaxed, without any added pressure.

Over the next couple of meetings, numbers continued to rise. Then the COVID-19 pandemic occurred! The cafe closed and I felt lost. I didn’t want the meetings to lose its momentum, not only for then men who have been attending, but also for ‘For Men To Talk’ in general.

However, after being introduced to the video conferencing website/application, Zoom, we could continue the meetings, not just monthly, but on a weekly basis.

Every Wednesday, since the first lockdown, the group meetings have been attended by many men, trying to improve their wellbeing. As they are online, it is not just men from the local areas attending. Lads from Essex, Doncaster and even Wisconsin in the USA have found out and come on board.

We have also welcomed guest presenters discussing subjects such as dealing with grief, nutrition, exercise and the very important topic of men who have suffered from domestic abuse.

The virtual group meetings have proved successful. We will continue with them for the foreseeable future and until it’s safe to return to the cafe.

‘For Men To Talk is finally getting men to talk about their anxiety, depression and grief and showing that there is no shame in sharing their feelings. You can read some of the feedback on the testimonial page. http://www.formentotalk.co.uk/testimonials

One Man’s Journey with For Men To Talk

The following article has been written by an attendee from the ‘For Men To Talk’ group sessions. We can not thank them enough for their honesty and bravery in sharing their story.

‘For Men To Talk’ has been a shining light for me in real times of darkness. I was ‘one of those men’ that didn’t talk. I didn’t want to admit to myself and others that I wasn’t ok. I got to a point in my life where I hit rock bottom, which resulted in a mental health crisis that nearly ended my life.

This was the start of my recovery journey. For whatever reason, that to this day I still don’t know why I reached out, I knew I couldn’t carry on in a continuing cycle of deep depression and anxiety.

The anxiety came after my crisis. I had never really experienced it before or understood how crippling it can be.

I sought help to start with via The Samaritans and 999. From this point now looking back, was the most important choice I have ever made. I will be eternally grateful to those that came to me in my moment of need and this is where the recovery starts.

After a spell in the mental health unit at Peterborough Hospital for assessment, I was discharged to the care of the Crisis at Home Team. This only lasts for 7 days and this is where the struggle begins. I was put under the care of my General Practitioner (GP) and found that access to mental health support for men is hard to find.

I made contact with CPSL Mind and some local services via my GP. The issue I found that all the support was during the day, between the hours of 9am and 5pm, unless you needed that emergency support via 111 option 2.

Then the global Covid-19 pandemic hit. Everything was cancelled, I found that no support via face-to-face or online was immediately unavailable. This is where I personally feel that mental health services in the UK fail to catch those that need help when they need it the most.

The struggle for self-help is real, you really must fight with yourself and ‘the system’ to get help. You have to be strong to help yourself, but when you are just coming to terms with a mental health crisis the world is a very, very lonely place. I felt isolated and alone. I felt that I was the only person going through this and nobody else would understand.

I will never forget the day that I heard an interview on my local radio station. Luke Newman was talking about a group he had founded called ‘For Men To Talk’. All of a sudden I was not alone. Listening to Luke talking about his own experiences with depression and anxiety gave me hope that help was available. I contacted Luke straight after the interview and attended the next group meeting on Zoom.

My life has changed from this moment. I had found a place where I feel safe and secure. talking and listening with other men who have been or are going through a journey. ‘For Men To Talk’ has been an integral part of my recovery. With a recovery from a mental health crisis, it’s all about the cogs coming together. I have support from my GP in the form of medication, I’ve been lucky to find a great therapist and to have support from my family, but the one constant is ‘For Men To Talk’.

It’s not just the weekly chat on Zoom, it’s the support network it has formed for me. We all chip in to be a sounding board, to offer tips of things that have worked for each other.

I think it’s important to understand that it’s not a counselling session. It’s a place to feel safe, to feel secure and to have the freedom to talk or just to listen.