A Lichfield retailer has unveiled the guest speaker at an event raising awareness of the mental health challenges men face in the modern world.

Andy Burnham

Andy Burnham, Mayor of Greater Manchester, will speak at the virtual event hosted by Central England Co-op on 24th March.

Other sessions at the event will focus on health and wellbeing, bereavement and life after lockdown.

Mr Burnham said:

“I am really pleased to be able to join Central England Co-op to support this Men’s Voices event – I look forward to contributing to the day’s important discussions.

“Any work to reduce the stigma around male mental health should be applauded.

“As we continue to face the challenges and impact of the Covid-19 pandemic, now is a critical time to have these conversations and ensure men feel comfortable in speaking up without fear.”

Andy Burnham

The retailer said previous events had been held to coincide with International Men’s Day in November, but that the current timing felt appropriate to discuss some of the topics with an end to lockdown in sight.

Organiser James Knight said:

“We are really delighted to be welcoming Andy to the event and feel with the current campaigns that he is involved with, particularly around mental health and supporting those suffering as a result of this pandemic, he will be a really insightful and engaging voice to spark interesting debates and conversations.

“The timing of the event feels right, particularly now we have the roadmap out of lockdown, and it is an opportunity to reflect on the challenges of the past year and those ahead as we move to some semblance of normality in the coming months.

“We look to hold these events to try and give men a voice in the modern world and provide a space where men feel they can talk about the issues that affect them.

“There has traditionally been a stigma around men talking about their feelings, with terms like ‘man up’ too often used in response to men suffering with their mental health but with the continued and shocking rise in male suicide rates it is vital that we continue to fight against that stigma.”

James Knight

The Men’s Voices event takes place on Zoom between 10am and 12pm. Places are limited and free tickets can be booked online.

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24 Comments

  1. I see no comments from men here. It speaks volumes to me. The silence is crushing. It is an article about men for men. It mentions International Men’s Day, a day for men to be proud of being a man. But what does being a man really mean? Please excuse me if I pipe up here. You may not think it is my place being a woman. But having spent most of my life working with men on both personal and professional levels I feel it important to bring the debate out into the open. To start the conversation, at least give us ALL something to think about. This article touches upon a subject that gets to the heart of a very big problem in society. Close to my heart. Attitudes about mental health, pushed under the carpet, the ‘forbidden’ topic for so many years. It cuts across any differences, barriers, borders between us whatever the age. And it affects all of us on different levels. I realised many years ago during the course of my employment when writing reports for the courts, how difficult it is for men especially to acknowledge their true feelings. To ‘connect’ to them. To be true to themselves. It’s not men’s fault. This must be understood. It’s about what was expected of them by a society in a bygone age. The ‘stiff upper lip’ syndrome. Something we are only recently coming to terms with in the 21st Century. In response to a question I asked men about their feelings trying to get to the nub of the problem it was usually so very difficult to get a true response. Yet feelings hidden, held down, repressed can lead to isolation, feeling alone in the world, feelings of defeat, powerlessness, violence, suicide. “Be a man my son”. What exactly does that mean? Don’t be vulnerable? Don’t be too sensitive? Don’t leave yourself exposed? Exposed to what? I could go on here but I’ll leave the answers for you to think about. From my own experiences being ‘vulnerable’, leaving yourself open rather than closing yourself down makes you so much stronger inside. Helps to strengthen the emotional muscles, helps one to stand up and be counted, be able to say ‘this is what I feel’. It may not be what you feel but these are my feelings. They matter to me. Being vulnerable, being sensitive is my strength. Just being able to cry is such a wonderful release. It is so healing. It takes courage to feel your feelings against all the odds. It takes a warrior in the true sense of the word to feel vulnerable, sensitive.

  2. Megan – there’s not a lot to be said. Its an event that wiill address mental health issues for men. Good. I’ve made a note ofthe details.

    I tend to think a lot of what you said is outdated and stereotypical of a bygone age. I say this as someone who is in his late 50s and conservative with both a small and big c.

    There is a lot to be said for staying quiet and listening, in allowing someone else a chance to talk and express what they think as maybe it is more relevant. Giving others space to get a word in edge-wise and not talking is a strength.

    Silence is not always a problem, it is often golden.

  3. @Barry Scott I have noticed you also have a lot to say for yourself. Especially when trolling me. You obviously missed the point again. But what the heck. I don’t have a political stick to wield as you do.

  4. Well said Megan, and I don’t think what you say is outdated. It will take a lot of time and effort to overcome the societal stereotypes and start meaningful change.

  5. Megan – I do not understand. I am not sure how I am trolling you. I disagree with your general characteristics of male attitudes to mental health, which I do believe no longer apply and I hope I am allowed a different opinion to you on that?

    As for my other points about listening I am merely making the point that a lot of men have a different approach to such things and absorb information rather than feel the need to talk. We do actually like to listen and accept different viewpoints rather than speak – I think it is referred to as “stream of consciousness” perhaps? Obviously we are all different, and in this regard most men I know like to listen and not express too many opinions as regards some issues such as our own health in general and mental health in particular. In my judgment that is not bad, it is very useful as we are listening and understand – hence silence is golden.

    Quite how that is then interpreted by you as an attack on you I do not understand.

    Equally I am not sure I am making a political point here and am not wiedling any sort of stick.

    On the contrary, I am feeling a little under attack for doing the sort of thing you were criticising men in general for – expressing an opinion on male mental health.

  6. Unless you have experienced it is is easy to underestimate the impact on family and friends of those suffering mental health conditions. You are walking on egg shells most of the time. Unlike physical conditions there is no obvious solution or conclusion for all but the mildest cases. My brother committed suicide. Great wife, three young children, no apparent problems, then he started becoming paranoid. Irrational and inconsolable. There is a massive difference between lack of self esteem, and doubt is a feature of most people’s lives, and the mental state that makes you dysfunctional.
    These are difficult times. More are affected by the circumstances for many reasons. Men in particular still feel they have responsibility to provide for their families. Articulating the worries can put others under pressure depending on their coping ability.
    Lastly… One of the negative aspects of social media seems to be to belittle people who contribute or sometimes do so intentionally to evoke a response. I like good debate but will not respond to the faceless warriors who are in reality just cowardly and would not dare to state their opinions face to face.

  7. Well said gentlemen. I agree with Barry Scott – something that very rarely happens on any issue!

    We all have different ways of approaching such matters and expressing that as an opinion should be applauded. The Quiet Man is often listening a lot harder and understanding more than the noisy ones. I agree that silence can be golden.

  8. There is no one-size fits all approach to mental health. I have direct day-to-day management responsibility for a large group of men, all different ages, backgrounds and nationalities. They all have their own ways of dealing with mental health issues and we respect that. But the majority do have a good understanding as regards mental health, both their own and the people around them.

    I think it is part of the problem to suggest a sweeping generalisation that all men respond in a particular way and issues such as mental health are allowed to be swept away and hidden.

    I agree completely with several of the gentlemen who have commented that silence is not always a sign of ignorance or reluctance to engage with such issues, on the contrary it can signal a willingness to pause and listen and engage constructively and positively.

    It is very dangerous to pigeonhole people, particularly as regards mental health. It is also dangerous to point the finger and criticise someone for expressing a personal opinion and share their own personal experiences. So I thank Barry, John, Philip and Scott for sharing their thoughts. It shows four different approaches to this important issue and I would say all of them should be valued and appreciated.

    Also, I thank the organisers of this event for the way in which they are working proactively to raise awareness and not doing so in a lecturing or hectoring manner. I hope the event is a solid success.

  9. @ Barry Scott, Oh dear. I am not the opposition. I started by stating that this issue is about something much wider that affects all of us regardless of differences, barriers, borders even AGE. Did I criticise you. How? I said you missed the point. Fair enough. You seem to have a hang up about politics and older people. You have mentioned the older generation before rather disparagingly. Then this,

    “I tend to think a lot of what you said is outdated and stereotypical of a bygone age. I say this as someone who is in his late 50s and conservative with both a small and big c.”.
    “There is a lot to be said for staying quiet and listening”. Barry Scott..

    Well I have been silent for nigh on 14 years Barry Scott. I have suffered with PTSD and ME and come through them successfully. I feel I have earned the right to speak up on this issue that affects everybody in the final analysis. Furthermore you have no idea where my “support” is coming from. Maybe you should practice the art of listening. Instead of being so eager to criticise. I could be your boss for all you know it. It’s social media after all.

    I started by stating a simple truth. It wasn’t about politics, age or gender. But you didn’t ‘listen’. Is Lichfield Live only about younger men’s views then? Perhaps I should ask Ross? If so it should be stated upfront in the policy for all to see.

    You think you’re in the driving seat as a younger man but you’re not.There’s a much bigger force at work than you and I. And you are not doing yourself any favours. You accused me of stereotyping but look at the stereotypes you used. You think that with a lot of the older generation, the elderly dying off, you’ve hit the jackpot. However consider that from a political perspective the older generation has friends, relatives, families, children and grandchildren. How will they like the tone you have set. What you need to understand is that once the older generation has passed away you’ll have the younger ones to contend with, their grandchildren who have come of age or are coming of age politically. Don’t assume that they think like you do. A little humility, sensitivity and respect wouldn’t go amiss and will serve you in good stead if you want to carry people along with you. You never stop learning even when old. Just think you might be old one day. Frightening isn’t it. Who will look after you. Perhaps that’s your problem.

    Btw it was I commented previously in an earlier article on small businesses that failure to provide funds for their owners during the pandemic could result in a host of problems, family breakdown, mental health problems even suicide when the Lichfield MP was saying the complete opposite. I think I was the only person made that type of comment at the time. I didn’t see any supporting comments from you then. Was that comment outdated and from a bygone age? Why didn’t you speak out. Why didn’t you support me?

  10. Megan – I’m 58. I don’t think I am a spring chicken any more. I volunteer for a number of groups that help those of all age groups and especially those in their 60s and above. I campaign for accessibility rights for the disabled, which includes a large number of pensioners. I am afraid I do not understand this continued attack on myself and my opinions.

    I stated an opposite view to you as regards what I believe is an outdated stereotypical image of male attitude to mental health. The rest of my original comment is a general view and opinion based on my experience, it has absolutely nothing to do with you or what you said in your comment. Why would you think it does?

    I then faced this: “@Barry Scott I have noticed you also have a lot to say for yourself. Especially when trolling me. You obviously missed the point again. But what the heck. I don’t have a political stick to wield as you do.”

    I now face a 500-word comment directed solely at me. I’m afraid I do not understand why you have taken my general comment on mental health issues so personally and now direct your comments and criticism solely at me.

    I think perhaps I should refrain for commenting any longer on this website as I am at a complete loss to understand why I have become a target like this. I will keep reading the articles as I believe LichfieldLive does an excellent job of providing important news.

  11. Barry… You don’t have to respond to those you find provocative. It is improbable that you will change opinions anyway. Nevertheless, this is an important subject and this site gives us the opportunity to share experiences. Things are not necessarily right just because they are eloquently stated nore wrong when less well phrased. What is important is good debate and to the point. Defend your right to do this, and thank you Lichfield Live for your forbearance.

  12. Hannah Meghan – well said, that’s what I was about to attempt to articulate. For many people being encouraged to speak about their problems can be a massive help, indeed it’s considered one of the most important elements of suicide prevention, but there is no ‘one size fits all’.

    Megan and Barry. Don’t make me come back there.

  13. @Phil. I’m sure you will get a hug at some stage. But you will have to wait for the time being. Bless your heart hahaha.
    @Barry Scott. It is up to you what you do. The same goes for me. Compared to me you are a spring chicken. Especially when you say, “I tend to think a lot of what you said is outdated and stereotypical of a bygone age”. Well thank you very much for that. I am as fit as a fiddle and younger in mind, body and heart than a lot of those much younger than I. However I will not respond to any more of your comments. Btw you wrote quite a long piece yourself. Never mind that doesn’t bother me. Pot calling the kettle what. I haven’t any ill will against you believe it or not. @Philip I do agree with this point, “Unless you have experienced it is is easy to underestimate the impact on family and friends of those suffering mental health conditions”. I have already mentioned my own during which periods I too thought of suicide on several occasions. Now I am out of the woods thank goodness. But I had to escape to France for a period of time to recuperate. I have an older brother and a younger sister both of whom have suffered with mental health problems nearly all of their lives. It saddens me. I was dealing with these problems at the age of 21 when I also had a 1 year old child to bring up, my father was dying of cancer and my mother was on tranquillisers. As to “would not dare to state their opinions face to face”. Believe you me I would have no problem with that. Being prepared I wrote 2 pieces in response to @Barry Scott like the good organiser I am hahaha. It included this, “I do admire your tenacity, your courage to speak out. However a little humility, sensitivity and respect wouldn’t go amiss”. Enjoy the course. I’m sure it will be of benefit.

  14. I am a little uneasy with the tone of some of the comments on this article. It seems men were encouraged to speak up on this and when one did for some inexplicable reason he appears to have become a target.

    Having worked in mental health advocacy for a number of years I think Barry is absolutely right that making sweeping generalisations about how men respond to issues such as mental health is not helpful. I think he makes some useful points about the need to listen and understand and that silence should not always be viewed as a problem if that person is processing information in a different way to others. There are still men who do bottle things up, yet there are many more who are willing to express their opinions and reveal the problems they are experiencing. It is far from the taboo subject for many men that some may think, but reaching those who are experiencing difficulty in seeking help is still vitally important and events like this will do a lot of good in achieving that aim.

    As someone else has pointed out, there is no one size fits all approach to mental health, as it seems Barry was trying to articulate. But one of your commenters now seems to be focusing their attention on him with some fairly frivolous and unfounded comments – somewhat ironic given the subject matter of the article.

  15. @KatieW, “I think Barry is absolutely right that making sweeping generalisations about how men respond to issues such as mental health is not helpful”. Well neither do I think that making sweeping generalisations about this , “I tend to think a lot of what you said is outdated and stereotypical of a bygone age”, is helpful either. Touché.

  16. Megan – You had a minor difference of opinion with one person over one point. He was then subjected to lengthy personal comments and accusations by you across several subsequent comments. This was despite his attempt to explain that his comment was not solely directed at you but made a very valid point regarding the different approaches men have to mental health. As someone who works as a mental health advocate I endorse what Barry says and as someone agreed “one size does not fit all”.

    What I find disturbing is that despite his repeated attempts to assure you he was making more general points, you regarded all his comments as a personal attack on you. That is not the way I read his comments. Rather the majority of your comments on here amount to a personal attack on him.

    As this is an article on male mental health, I find your approach and unwillingness to pause, reflect and understand the point he and several others were making not just ironic but deeply disturbing. I hope you understand that your approach is very different to most and also can be quite challenging behaviour for some people.

    You express empathy for mental health issues and cite personal experiences. Yet you have displayed very little empathy and understanding on this post. Sadly I do not expect you to acknowledge this as a possibility and I have reflected for several days on whether I should even respond. But I felt it was important to do so.

  17. @KatieW, “I say this as someone who is in his late 50s and conservative with both a small and big c.”. This is what I took opposition to. Why introduce politics? I didn’t mention it. I don’t think mental health issues pertain to any one Party. Obviously you didn’t get the point either. Also you do not appear to know what has gone on before concerning Barry Scott and I. You might do well to wise up on it.Why introduce politics? I didn’t mention it This concerns me. Fact! It makes me seriously ponder about the mental health problem and why has it become such a plague, a scurge in this country. Something doesn’t seem quite right. Furthermore it causes me to reflect about the mental health service provision and is it really so effective given the size of the problem. Perhaps mental health service provision doesn’t fit the bill any longer, doesn’t meet the causes of the problem anymore. Perhaps mental health training needs to be brought into the 21st Century and looked at in a different way. Is it as relevant as it could be in this day, this age, this era? Is it that the current level of philosophy and practice is past it’s sell by date. Perhaps it needs to be tailored to be more of an overall well rounded fully comprehensive socially inspired method of treatment rather than a simple medical diagnostic one. Time no doubt will tell. Also as someone as you say, c

  18. @KatieW “I hope you understand that your approach is very different to most and also can be quite challenging behaviour for some people.”. I can only say given my previous comment, I hope that the mental health service undertakes change. It is outdated and not in keeping with the times. Hence the reason mental health has become such a problem. Furthermore given my personal experiences of mental health as described I find your attitude deplorable.

  19. I’m on a roll here so apologies to all but I think this as an extremely important issue. Particularly in this day and age. The question I originally asked was, “But what does being a man really mean?” Especially when taking the following into consideration, “There are many different gender identities, including male, female, transgender, gender neutral, non-binary, agender, pangender, genderqueer, two-spirit, third gender, and all, none or a combination of these”. When Mr Scott tells me that “I tend to think a lot of what you said is outdated and stereotypical of a bygone age”. Well I say “Tosh”.

  20. @KatieW, errmm, “I tend to think a lot of what you said is outdated and stereotypical of a bygone age”, this is how ‘bygone’ I am, “Have a Hot Composter. Costly but worth it. Can put almost anything in there. Apart from ordinary vegetable waste, can input cooked food waste, bones, cat food and poo, if recyclable cat litter also etc etc. So hardly any rubbish at all to the dump. It’s the heat that does it. We’ll worth it”. Message to my eldest daughter. A psychiatric nurse. An up to date modern futuristic thinking psychiatric nurse. One who cares.

  21. For what it’s worth, I think mental health is an emotive subject, almost by definition, and people can get very touchy about, so let’s all take a deep breath and chill. No, one size definitely doesn’t fit all. After traumatic events, for instance, counselling can help some people but can be the worst thing for others. It has attracted stigma for a long time, something that we are still trying to counter, not helped by some of the labels that psychiatrists insist on using. The shortage of NHS facilities for it also doesn’t help, exacerbated by the rise in problems due to the pandemic.

  22. Megan – perhaps Barry wasn’t introducing politics, rather he was acknowledging you have a history of different opinions based on politics? I read your opening comment that started “I see no comments from men here. It speaks volumes to me. The silence is crushing” and thought it was quite a provocative and challenging stance to take. When Barry attempted to explain his reasoning about the silence and why it is not necessarily always a bad thing you then proceeded to instigate a one-woman pile-on – possibly based on your previous differences of opinion based on other issues? As he tried to reassure you he was not making this issue personal between the two of you, unfortunately you decided to pile on a bit more and continue to do so.

    I find Barry’s silence now quite a significant signal and worrying, but it is one you feel does not apply to you for whatever reason.

    I have familiarised myself with this site’s comments policy and find it refreshing and pertinent: “Creating a space where voices from across Lichfield and Burntwood can be heard has always been a part of the Lichfield Live story. Readers regularly bring insight, perspective and opinion to many of the topics we cover, creating a rounded view of the issues and stories that are important to our audience.”

    You seem more interested in shutting down and stamping all over those comments you do not feel fit into your own world view.

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