Serial social entrepreneur Paul Bannister and founder of one of the North East’s most prominent children’s charities Heel and Toe has launched ManHealth CIC (Community Interest Company) to help tackle the issue of male suicide.
The North East has the highest rate of suicide in the UK with 75 percent by men and parts of the region suffer some of the country’s worst economic and social depravation. Paul said:
“The tragedy is that if we could get to these men who are feeling isolated and alone and encourage them to talk to someone many of these irreversible human tragedies could be avoided.”
Paul was able to use his experience of founding children’s charity Heel and Toe and subsequent experience as a social entrepreneur; he is also a founding director of Tiny Hound Media CIC, a social enterprise committed to helping the third and healthcare sector, to apply what he learned to setting up ManHealth CIC.
Paul, from Shildon County Durham, said: “Obviously we were delighted when the Big Lottery supported us, initially for a feasibility study, and subsequently to invest such a substantial sum in the ManHealth CIC project itself based on what we found. We hope to roll out these ManHealth groups across County Durham and the wider region.
“Men are not good at talking at the best of times but often mental health is a particularly thorny issue that will not be discussed as it’s perceived as a sign of weakness.
And this is where ManHealth CIC, a Big Lottery backed peer to peer counselling service comes in.
“We’ve conducted extensive research interviewing ninety men, many health professionals and people in the voluntary sector in and around the South Durham region including my home town of Shildon.
“What we discovered is that there was, given the right forum, a great appetite for talking about these issues from the local male population.
“Of course there are some amazing professional counsellors out there but the idea of ManHealth CIC is that these groups will be comprised of like-minded and similar individuals, as will those leading the discussion in each group.
“Through a combination of shame, embarrassment and male pride talking about their mental health issues, to even their closest friends and family, is completely off the table.
“But by discussing their issues with others in a similar position who have been through, or are still going through, similar problems, such as experiencing depression, we have found there to be a very positive response.”
The first ManHealth session is now weekly – every Wednesday between 6pm and 8pm in Shildon.