Nowadays, there are a variety of mental health programs available to people who are suffering from various mental health illnesses.
These so-called “invisible” diseases used to be largely stigmatized by society, but now, it looks like we are taking a step forward as more and more public personalities are sharing their own mental health struggles, encouraging more people to open up about theirs and seek professional treatment or join any mental health programs available.
For anyone going through a mental health crisis, talking about it just seems like an impossible task. Though mental health programs are easily accessible now, there are still others who prefer to keep mum about their struggles. Men, in particular, don’t talk about their feelings that much, which puts them at risk of suffering from these illnesses without receiving proper diagnosis and treatment.
This unfortunate phenomenon is what inspired Craig Spillane to start the Men Unite Facebook group, after a couple of his pals admitted to feeling suicidal. According to the group’s description, its main objective is “to make it ok to talk“ and to “let our fellow men know we are here and that we are in this together”.
Just over a month after the group’s launch, its members already grew to almost 4,000 men. Some post about their personal problems and issues, while others offer their advice and lend a friendly ear. Each member has a unique role to play.
In a conversation with LadBible, Craig said:
“I just came up with the idea one day while I was sat on the toilet – I’ve got a couple of close pals that had confided in me that they felt suicidal and one in particular really hit home, because I could see that he was like a younger version of me.
I was in his position 20 years ago – I had a cocaine addiction, I was lying to my missus about money… and he was doing the same.
It spiraled from there; it got me thinking deeper. A lot of the problems men face come from the fact that they won’t talk about their feelings so I created this group, just as a platform for men to speak.”
With the help of his friend Kian Feiza-Anaraki, the Facebook group was set up and it quickly gained a following.
“At first I thought I’d maybe get 20 or 30 people in there. But in the first day I ended up with 110 and I thought, ‘Hang on, there’s something in this.’ People began sharing their experiences and their stories.
We had people posting about their depression, suffering with anxiety, feeling suicidal, people who had been abused as children.
People are putting their stories out there and other people are reading them, who have maybe been in that situation themselves, and they able to give them advice. For other people it’s just a chance for them to get it off their chest and to talk about whatever is bothering them.”
Aside from supporting and engaging with each other online, the group decided to take their friendships offline, too. Just two weeks after Men Unite was launched, a meet-up was arranged with an open invitation to everyone in the group.
“We decided to put on a football match. I know football can be divisive but we wanted to use it to bring people together. We put out an invite and I was expecting to get maybe 10 or 15 people turning up; I thought we could put on a little five or seven-a-side, but 47 people turned.
Others who don’t like football have arranged fishing events – we’ve had a group of 30 men go on a run and 20 meet up to go on a bike ride.
We’ve got one man who has autism and he’d not left the house for nine months; he thought he had no friends, but he came out last week to the football meet up and he’s had people going ’round to his house for tea. It’s heart-warming.”
In the future, Craig hopes that the group will grow and that its message about the importance of being open and honest will spread. He also looks forward to organizing more events that will allow the men to meet up and get to know each other better.
As for long-term goals, Craig’s objective is to register Men Unite as a community interest company. He has already set up a crowd-funding to collect a bit of cash, so that he could build a proper headquarters where the group members could drop by for a coffee or a chat.
Craig also wants to start a podcast where they tackle the common issues that men encounter.
“We did a podcast for a local group recently. I think it’s a really good platform to help spread our message and help remove some of the stigma,” he said.
Men Unite transformed from being just a Facebook group into something that serves as these men’s own mental health program. Through the community, they were able to share their struggles with other people who are suffering from the same issues – and learning that you’re not alone in your battle against mental illnesses is in itself a reassuring fact.
[If you are having thoughts of suicide, call the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline at 1-800-273-8255 (TALK) or go to SpeakingOfSuicide.com/resources for a list of additional resources. Here’s what you can do when a loved one is severely depressed.]