Previous Meetings

Men’s Support Group Meet (13th May 2015)

Thanks to everyone who came along today. It’s great to see regular members, as ever, but also great to see a new member today.

When I set up the group my aim was to balance talking about problems against having fun. I feel today’s group was a perfect example of that. Lots of laughter, but also touching on personal issues. I hope this resulted in lifting people’s mood, and also made people feel better for sharing their problems with others.

I’m still torn between hiring a room, which can be clinical and overly formal at times, and of remaining in the cafe. The cafe brings a sense of sociability and liveliness to the group. I have recently reflected on whether a room sets the seen for a classical group therapy setting, which is not really the service me provide. The benefit of hiring a room is that their is more confidentiality, so I can see this from both sides. Will hopefully discuss this with group members soon to assess what to do.

We played darts, and pool afterwards, which was great fun.

Thanks to everyone who came along.

Copyright MEN HEAL 2015.

Men’s Support Group Meet (4th December 2014)

Note: Confidentiality is respected so I will only talk about themes or general points rather than specifics of what was said.

Structure or Unstructured?

Someone gave feedback last week that the group was very unstructured. This was an excellent piece of feedback. I tried to explain that I have tried to reach a balance between too much structure, which can be constrictive, and too little structure which can make the meetings run awry. If a group is too structured people don’t feel as free to be themselves, they can start developing a ‘therapy’ persona. Also some men are turned off by the idea of therapy due to stigma. I therefore try to make the group a social group for people who happen to have mental health issues, rather than a mental health group for people who want to socialise. Too little structure and a dominant member of the group can take over a bit too much, or the meetings might avoid ever talking about our issues because no-one dares start. Men's Group

Therapy Group or Social Event?

The other aim was to create a group that wasn’t just about talking about problems, which can make people more depressed, but instead to aim for a perfect balance between having fun and discussing issues when we feel like it. My other intention when setting up the the group was to ensure it wasn’t a therapy group. That is, the group is therapeutic, but there is no therapist there. If there are new members, or people don’t seem warmed up socially, I tend to get everyone to go round the table saying their name, why they are here, This is why I prefer to be a group facilitator, rather than some kind of therapist. A facilitator should sometimes take a back seat when things seem to falter, and at other times come in and oil the cogs to get things moving again. When the cogs are turning the facilitator can merge in to the background. However a facilitator shouldn’t be afraid of silence either. I am slowly learning the skills to achieve the balance. It seems to all be about balance!

Today’s Session

Today someone seemed particularly gloomy and down. A couple of people paired off and seemed to be laughing and having fun in their own conversation. By the end of their two hours together, they both had spirits which had been lifted. Did they talk about their problems? A bit, but not in a forced way. Were they asked to share their feelings? Not by some overarching therapist figure, but possible by each other in passing. A result. A therapeutic interaction occurs called ‘being human’! My role is to create a safe and welcoming environment where people want to interact. The other members of the group, me included, spent most of the time having a good laugh. I myself found this great fun and my spirits were lifted, and I sensed that everyone else also felt good. The last hour or so we did talk a fair bit about the mind. We talked about:

  • anger
  • paranoia
  • anxiety
  • CBT
  • mindfulness / meditation
  • self-fulfilling prophecies
  • group dynamics
  • compassion

“When you gaze long into an abyss the abyss also gazes into you” – Friedrich Nietzsche

I went over how observing the mind, via mindfulness or other self-reflective practise, can allow us to start to spot patterns of the mind. Compassion is important to allow us to learn to accept our own minds, warts and all. I spoke about how the mind’s negative self-talk or our monkey mind can make us get lost down the abyss. I also mentioned a very useful phrase I heard on a mindfulness course several years ago:

Thoughts are not facts

When I first heard this, in hindsight, obvious phrase, it really transformed my anxiety. I started to realise that a lot of thoughts I have might well be illusory! Once you realise that, your thoughts lose a lot of power over you. Everyone said they felt a huge benefit coming to the group. They see it as far more than a social group, and they don’t see it as a therapy group, so it seems like I’ve hit the spot I was aiming for. Copyright MEN HEAL 2014

Men’s Support Group Meet (5th November 2014)

I would consider today’s meeting as our most successful so far. I have spent every minute of the past two weeks intensely marketing the group. On MeetUp, Twitter, Facebook, Abergavenny Chronicle, contacting local counsellors, telling friends of friends, putting our details on mental health directories, including one run by the NHS for cancer patients. It looks like my marketing paid off because we had at least seven people, too many count at a quick glance.

We had a new member who I felt was very brave. It can be daunting to come to a group for the first time, however he soon got stuck in, probably because the regulars are so welcoming, thoughtful and compassionate.

There is a lot of wisdom in the group, as some people have had mental health issues for decades. So it was good for everyone to share their wisdom and experiences, not only because wisdom can help us discover new coping-strategies, but also it can make us feel less alone to find other people who are struggling with similar issues.

We spoke about how CBT and mindfulness can help with emotional regulation.

A few days ago I realised that I wanted the group to also utilise mental health preventative strategies, i.e. it is good to support people with stress before it turns in to a more serious mental health issue. Therefore I told the group that we will be accepting people who are distressed or stressed, or just going through a hard time. You do not need a form diagnosis to come to the group, this especially important because some people might be undiagnosed or might be in a phase where we can prevent them from developing a mental health issue.

We went round the table and we all introduced ourselves and spoke a little about our reason for being there. It was great to hear what people had to say.

Obviously the group is confidential so I never mention specifics about any individual, unless they request that I do or if I ask them and they are ok with being mentioned. However by default I don’t mention specifics. Confidentiality can help in making people feel safer within the group, it is also easier to open up if you know people won’t blurt it out to others.

The members are so supportive of each other, I am honoured to have met them all.

If you know of anyone who might benefit from visiting our group then please let me know. You can contact me via the contact page on this website.

Copyright MEN HEAL 2014.

Minutes of Meeting (17th September 2014)

Murray and S both turned up again at the Cafe.

Murray will now be vice-chair, and head of marketing. I will be chair and founder. S will be secretary. This means that we are now looking for a treasurer. In order to get a treasurer we will need to start marketing the group.

This week we designed A4 fliers so we can market the group, so we can push forward with this soon.

One issue we came across was that me and Murray were pushing ourselves too hard setting up this group. We were so enthusiastic that we started to get burnout. Luckily I spot the signs and so today we mostly had time off from doing anything for the group or with MEN HEAL. I am going to give myself the rest of the week off in order to avoid burnout.

When I got home in the afternoon I slept for quite a few hours and my low mood subsided. It just goes to show how important quality rest is in relation to recovery from depression.

Murray and myself also found a venue this week which is amazing news. It has very good rates when compared to other places we looked at and there seems to be spaces. There is also a kitchen and it’s fairly central.

We look forward to marketing the group and pushing it forward.

I’ve connected with lots of great people on the MEN HEAL Twitter account (@menhealuk). There is a great sense of community on Twitter. Personally I much prefer it to Facebook.

Out next goal is to push on with marketing. S also looked in to the terms and conditions that people will need to sign when they join the group. Excellent work S. And fantastic efforts from Murray as well. I feel blessed to have these guys onboard. They both keep me going.

Copyright MEN HEAL 2014.

Minutes of Meeting (10th September 2014)

This was our third meeting as MEN HEAL. We met up again in Caffè Nero.

S is still looking in to a venue. He has got a couple of leads, so it looks like we’ll have a new venue soon.

We talked about confidentiality, which is very important. S said that he would write a draft Set of Rules for the group which would include a clause on confidentiality. We hope to check this next week.

Murray did the following:

  • Brought in some draft designs for fliers as we are pushing forward with a marketing campaign soon
  • Came in with a phone number for a possible venue if S’s venues fall through
  • Came in with a phone number for St Cadoc’s (mental health hospital) as we are planning on inviting people to the group once they leave hospital
  • Brought a contact for Talygarn (mental health hospital) so we can send them a flier
  • Brought a list of all psychiatric hospitals in Wales, so we can email fliers to them in order to invite patients to visit our websites once they are released from hospital
  • Told S about the funding meeting we had with a lady from a local organisation
  • Spoke to Roger Harris (local councillor) about Mardy noticeboards in order to promote the group using fliers
  • Told S about the mental health first aid course he had been doing

Mike told us about how he set up the following Twitter accounts, and did a lot of online marketing there:

  • MEN HEAL – @menhealuk (In about four days we now have 350 followers)
  • Breakthru – @breakthru_uk
  • Wrote lots of articles on both websites (http://menheal.org.uk and http://breakthru.org.uk)
  • Told S about the funding meeting we had with a lady from a local organisation
  • Told S about the mental health first aid course he had been doing

As usual we had a good laugh with each other, although this week mostly talking about the future of the group… and making lists of all the work there is to do!

Second Meeting (3rd September 2014)

We all met up again. Currently there are just three of us.

The other two seem to be very passionate about this group, which makes me even more passionate to move forward and grow the group and it’s reach in helping others.

Last week we decided who should be Chair, Treasurer and Secretary. This information enabled me to write the draft constitution which is needed to set up an official group, which is in turn needed for funding purposes.

We agreed that S would look for a new venue, as some people might not be able to afford a coffee every week, and also it is difficult to maintain confidentiality in a public place.

Me and Murray are to meet with a lady in the coming week who specialises in funding for mental health. So we look forward to that meeting.

We had a great laugh as well, which was great. The other two really cheered me up… luckily they have a great sense of humour.

Everyone seemed to enjoy themselves.

Mike (Copyright 2014)

First Meeting (27th August 2014)

We met in Caffe Nero in town (Abergavenny) at 1500.
Caffe Nero Logo
There was me (Mike), the other founding member (Murray) and another attendee (S). We had already met in previous situations, so we were all familiar to each other to a greater or lesser extent.

We had a really good laugh and talked about comedy. Mrs Brown’s Boys, Bottom, Red Dwarf, and some amusing stories, one of which included Iggy Pop. This is fantastic because I didn’t want the group all to be about heavy topics. I always envisioned it would be light hearted where possible, with the occasional heaviness if people needed to talk about something that was getting them down. I feel this is important because the point of the group is to both uplift each other and support each other. Dragging each other down is not really a supportive act.

We are looking for funding and I had been advised previously that to get funding it is easier to do so if you are a constituted group. So as there were three of us, we decided who would become Treasurer, Chair and Secretary to allow us to become a constituted group.

S said they would look for a more suitable venue, as we felt that some people suffering from anxiety would find a busy cafe overwhelming. We also decided that some people would not be able to afford a coffee every week, as some future members could be on a very low income.

I agreed to write a draft constitution, that Murray and S could check next meet up (3rd September 2014).

We also agreed on a new time. The successive meets would move to starting at 1600 and ending at 1700.

Once the other two check the constitution draft, I will amend it to a final draft. From there we can make an appointment with a lady who specialises in mental health funding. She requested that we have a constitution before seeing her.

We have all agreed to meet next session.

Mike