Saturday 19th November marks International Men’s Day.
It was this time last year that sparked the idea that would become the Uncommon Man project. We held our first event at Uncommon Borough in November 2021 and the feedback immediately was “give us more!”.
Run by myself, Mark Briant, my business partner Rob Smith and Josh Connolly, we set out to create a monthly space for those that identify as men, to come and explore their emotions. We deliberately wanted this to be a safe, non-judgmental space. One that went against the tide of the stereotypes and stigma around men’s mental health that we really wanted to help break down.
Now a year on we still meet monthly, but we’ve grown into the slightly larger space of Uncommon Liverpool Street (especially awesome with the roof terrace for the summer months!). A group of 30+ men, from all ages, backgrounds, sexualities and demographics, all meet to talk about what’s been coming up for them in the past month.
We usually set a theme for the month, such as ‘who do you become in your stressed state’, start to unpick that in small groups, and then return together as a bigger group to share our personal experiences. We then finish off with an epic breathwork session, led by Josh and one of his always on-point playlists (don’t tell him I said that!). This is always the highlight of the session as a lot of the group get a huge emotional release, and I myself also come away feeling lighter and more positive about what’s going on in my life. I have found it a huge help for my personal struggles in the past few years, and has definitely altered my thinking in terms of my approach to how we can help with mental health in society.
Some of the key things to consider when talking about or helping people open up with mental health, regardless of gender, would be:
- Develop as a listener. Much of the narrative around mental health in society is about getting people to talk more about their emotions. In our experience, we actually need to get better as listeners. So often the temptation is to talk over or interrupt people when they are talking about their emotions, in our haste to help fix their problems. Try allowing your friend, partner or colleague to talk uninterrupted for 3-5 mins, only allowing yourself to ask questions, rather than offer advice. Sometimes just feeling like you are heard is extremely powerful.
- We need to create more spaces for people to open up, beyond just the pub, weddings and funerals. I think spaces like the Uncommon Man are so crucial to help people connect and feel like they have a support network they can fall back on when times do get tough. Can you create a mini group within your organisation or friendship group that meets regularly, away from the pub, to do something similar?
- There is no one-size-fits-all when it comes to mental health. Some people want to open up, some people want to talk, others want to physically release their emotions, others may take a little more time to get comfortable with the idea of understanding and tackling their emotions. It’s about regularly reminding people they have support in their lives should they need it, and make them feel like they can talk when they are ready.