Prior to the pandemic, in February 2020, social work colleagues Sarah Burke and Hazel Atherton from the Community Mental Health Team in Preston had the idea of forming a network for facilitators of local informal support groups for the men in Preston.Advertisement
Whilst the subject of mental health and well-being has been attracting more coverage and interest generally in the media and in conversation, the North West has seen increasing rates of death by suicide in recent years.
True Social Work in communities focuses on bringing people together: to share stories, skills, experience, and resources.
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Sarah and Hazel identified a number of informal local support groups via social media and established that very few of them were aware of each other.
They were situated in different areas of Preston and surrounding areas, and they were meeting in a range of community venues, and they were predominantly managed by volunteers or small CICs.
Most of them did not have any access to any funds or resources, however, they all had a common goal – to provide support and a safe space for men to walk, talk, use facilities available to them such as sports fields, sheds and workshops to provide meaningful occupation, support and strategies to promote wellbeing.
They approached a range of groups and invited them to a networking meeting for the purpose of introductions and to collaborate.
Groups such as Dig In North West, Team Kickabout, PeerTalk and Trust House came together, shared contact details and made plans to join up and share skills and resources such as access to a football pitch and to a workshop.
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Unfortunately, the Covid restrictions put plans on hold.
All parties managed to keep in touch via social media and email – and during the lockdown period Sarah and Hazel managed to recruit other groups such as Andy’s Man Club and the JJ Effect and representatives from the Community Gateway Association who all attended a follow-up meeting on Thursday 30 Sept.
There were informal introductions and short presentations from Andy’s Man Club, Preston and the JJ Effect CIC.
The next meeting is expected to take place in the new year, with plans to make it a regular event.
Sarah and Hazel have also had great support from friends and colleagues to get the project off the ground, and say the future of the network is looking really positive now that numerous facilitators have come on board and are all willing to dedicate their time and efforts to reach out to the men who need support.
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