SAMARITANS shares new research on how lockdown measures have affected men, as they launch their Real People, Real Stories campaign, supported by the rail industry.
The charity surveyed almost 2,000 men aged 18 to 59 to find out how the pandemic restrictions have affected their mental health and support networks. 42% of the men questioned felt that the restrictions have had a negative impact on their mental health, with loneliness and/or isolation, anxiety, financial worries and separation from loved ones among their concerns.
Despite some men saying that they find it hard to talk to someone about the way they are feeling when they are struggling, almost half (40%) said that talking to others helped with concerns and worries they had during the lockdown, showing the importance of seeking help and getting support when they need it.
Samaritans’ campaign Real People, Real Stories aims to reach men who are struggling to cope to prevent them from reaching crisis point. It features men sharing their stories of how they have overcome tough times to encourage others to seek help, by calling Samaritans for free on 116 123 or visiting samaritans.org for online self-help tools and information.
Steve (60) lives in Walsall and became a Samaritans volunteer following the death of his stepson who took his own life, leaving the family in devastation. He is one of thousands across the country that found themselves without a job in lockdown.
“Two days before the lockdown was announced, I was made redundant, which came as a massive blow as I’d been with the company for twenty odd years and I thought that it would be my last job before retirement.
“I realised that I had to try and adapt and keep myself stimulated. As a volunteer for Samaritans, I’m lucky enough to have friends at the branch to talk to and support me. If you’re isolated and lonely and you’re finding this time difficult then share that. Whether it’s with friends or by calling Samaritans, I believe that talking really can change your life.”
Over half of men (56%) that the charity spoke to said that they are feeling worried or anxious as restrictions continued to ease and are concerned about the future, highlighting the need for appropriate support now, so no one has to face things alone.
Samaritans Executive Director of External Affairs, Paul McDonald said:
“This pandemic has brought unexpected change and uncertainty, which will have a lasting impact on everyone’s mental health and wellbeing. At Samaritans, we know that less well off, middle-aged men have remained the highest risk group for suicide in the UK for decades and that the restrictions put in place during lockdown such as isolation and disconnection will have exacerbated problems for these men.
“We understand the value of listening and the power of human connection, particularly at this time when so many people are dealing with overwhelming thoughts and feelings. We know that sharing stories of recovery does encourage men to seek help, so we hope that our Real People, Real Stories campaign can help other men to see that they can do it too and know that Samaritans is always there when they want to talk.”
Martin (52) from Hertfordshire found himself struggling when he was in his early 30s after experiencing some difficulties at work and getting into a bit of financial trouble. He was introduced to a walking group for football supporters and started to open up after going to a few walks. Talking was a turning point for Martin that helped him on his road to recovery.
“After meeting a Samaritans volunteer at a walk and talk, I felt so relieved to have spoken to someone about my mental health, particularly as they had also experienced difficulties. It was a chat between two men with football in common, which led to talking about everyday things before drifting to mental health issues. Speaking to others on the walk who had been through tough times was really helpful, as they had some understanding of where you have been mentally.”
Real People, Real Stories runs from 11 August to 27 September and aims to reach men aged 18-59 years and above who are feeling low and struggling to cope. Men who have found life tough, experienced depression or suicidal thoughts have written words of support to other men and these will feature in films, shared across social media, radio, buses and TV. Find out more about Real People, Real Stories here. You can also support by following the campaign @samaritanscharity on Instagram or on Twitter @samaritans or Facebook, using the hashtag #RealPeopleRealStories.