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New Group Kicks Off For Men With Mental Health Needs

Men with mental health problems are set to benefit from an innovative project in West Bromwich that brings together psychological therapies and sporting activities.

The Black Country Partnership NHS Foundation Trust is teaming up with the West Bromwich Albion Foundation to launch a new group to help men between the ages of 18 and 65 deal with mental health issues such as depression and anxiety.

Dave Cochrane, clinical psychologist with the trust’s primary care liaison team, said: “The suicide rate among young men is significantly higher than among young women as are the levels of formal admissions to psychiatric wards, problematic alcohol use and aggression.

“Yet traditionally, fewer men are referred to primary mental health services because they find it harder to accept they need help and to ask for it. Those that are referred tend to be harder to engage with interventions such as talking therapies and frequently do not take up the service offered. It seems they also find it harder to come along to services that are provided in traditional health care venues.

“This project has been developed to engage those men who either suffer in silence or only present when they are in crisis and will provide structured psycho-educational therapy as well as meaningful sporting activity, away from a healthcare setting.”

He added that the group environment would enable participants to share their experiences and understanding of mental health and psychological wellbeing, as well as talk about other relevant issues such as employment and relationships. The session lasts an hour, followed by an hour in the sports hall, aimed at boosting psychological and physical wellbeing.

“However, participants do not have to be football-minded, other sports may be offered such as badminton, cricket, basketball and table tennis, and there will be opportunities to referee or simply to observe,” he explained. 

The group launches on July 15 at the training facility at the Albion’s football stadium, facilitated by Dave and Craig Green, occupational therapist in the primary care liaison team.

Craig explained: “The group is designed to help the participants rebuild their  social interactional skills and sense of belonging as part of a community, as well as understand how to maintain more positive mental health and wellbeing. It also teaches them the links between behaviour and mood which is an important part of cognitive behavioural therapy and occupational therapy.”

Up to 16 men can be accommodated and the group will run weekly for 10 weeks. Participants have to be referred by the liaison team - it is not a drop-in group. 

If the project is successful, it is hoped funding can be found to run further groups to reach out to men currently unknown to services but who have psychological problems. 

‘Delivering Male’ a document detailing new guidance from the National Mental Health Development Unit, identifies a number of issues, including that men self-stigmatise and may be embarrassed to admit they have a mental health problem and seek help; men may be misdiagnosed because they do not display traditional symptoms of depression and are more likely to take drugs or alcohol and be aggressive; and there is a need for male-friendly treatments and neutral health settings.