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