Facebook Group Set Up By Friends To Talk About Mental Health Now Has Thousands Of Members
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A man who created a private Facebook group to encourage a few of his mates to open up about their mental health has seen the page boom with thousands of members all over the world.
Now, during lockdown, Craig Spillane says many men are struggling with their mental health more than ever.
Having seen several close friends die due to mental illness, Craig, from Talke Pits in Newcastle-under-Lyme, set up Men Unite as a way to get a few close friends to open up about their mental health.
Expecting to get a dozen or so members, Craig was shocked to see that within 24 hours of launching the page, more than 100 men had signed up - now, just over a year, later Men Unite has thousands of members, its own offices and even a football team.
Speaking to LADbible, Craig said: "It really just snowballed - and we're at about 12,000 members in 78 different countries now.
"We've got a 24-hour support network, just from the Facebook group, because we've got a team of 20 admins all over the world - in the UK, the US, Spain, Belgium and Australia. It means that if you log on at 3am in the UK and say you really need to speak to someone, there will be a person available.
"We've got testimonials from men whose lives we've actually saved. We have contact with the police and we can get in touch with them if we think someone is in immediate danger."
But Craig says the ongoing coronavirus pandemic is having a huge impact on people's mental health - with triggers ranging from being in lockdown isolation to struggling with money due to job losses.
Tragically, Craig believes a couple of members have already taken their own lives during lockdown.
"It's because it's that change," he said. "It's so hard, if you have mental health issues anyway, being put in this position of not being able to go out.
"It's hard enough to get a man to talk, but if that man is out at work every day and is going out to football a couple of times a week, if he's going to the pub on a Friday to have a pint, that can be an opportunity that he has got to open up and talk and maybe let his guard down a little bit.
"But that has been taken away from men and they've been put in situations they're not used to. They're maybe not used to being sat at home all day - it's a different environment - and that itself can have a massive impact on mental health."
Craig has changed the way Men Unite works during lockdown to ensure that he's helping as many people as he can.
He said: "Since lockdown we've massively adapted what we do - we've set up a foodbank, so any members who are struggling financially can get in touch for food.
"A lot of the men are self-employed, or they were the bread-winners and they're too embarrassed to speak about their mental health issues, let alone talk about struggling for food. So we've approached a few members that we thought might be vulnerable and we're delivering food parcels to around 30 families a week and we're also offering support to those men."
Electrician Craig says he probably spends around 30-40 hours a week on the group now, as well as working his day job, and hopes that one day Men Unite can become his full-time job.
Talking about future plans, he added: "We're hoping to open up a hub and a drop-in centre, where men can pop in for a coffee or a chat and we can then sign-post them to services they might need. We have counsellors on board who could offer counselling or therapy sessions."
While the group does all it can for its members, Craig warns that the Government will need to step up once lockdown is over.
"We're offering that ongoing support," he said. "But after this lockdown there's going to be a wave of people who have got real issues that need dealing with and need addressing."
If you want to join Men Unite you can do so here.