DESPITE a rapid rise in the number of people seeking their help, the team at Men Matter Scotland is delighted every time someone walks through the door.

The charity has been told it has saved so many lives, and the dedicated volunteers are determined to continue to do so, by aiming to reduce suicide in men.

After launching its hub in February last year, just weeks before the Covid-19 pandemic, membership has already risen to 800, with around 20-30 new people joining each week.

“We have people who have felt suicidal, people who have tried to take their own life. We’ve got people who have addiction issues around alcohol, drugs, gambling and all these types of things,” board member Tom Elvin explains.

Glasgow Times: Tom ElvinTom Elvin

“As it stands just now, we pretty much have 24-hour, seven days a week coverage to support everybody.

“I think we are the only male mental health organisation in the UK that is a peer-to-peer support group. It’s not all run by counsellors and professionals.

“All of our volunteers are guys who’ve come through the door and who have lived the experience, who have then taken on the training and development that we have given and continue to give them, to then provide support to the network of members that we have.

“The thing that we find is guys are told not to share their feelings and emotions, and not to tell anybody they’re feeling weak. That behaviour thrives the culture of men keeping all their troubles to themselves and then ultimately feeling like when they’ve got nowhere else to go, the only way out is to take their own life.

“We have been fortunate where we’ve had a couple of guys recently, who have seriously considered suicide and tried, and we’ve managed to pull them back from the brink.

“People try to keep their feelings to themselves and the ultimate ignominy is if someone thinks that they have a mental health weakness or are considering suicide. We’re trying to change that stigma, and we’re trying to make sure that people, no matter what background they have, no matter where they live, or what their issues are, they know that there’s a support network here for them.”

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Although the hub is based in Drumchapel, the team at Men Matter Scotland welcome people from all over the country.

Tom, 48, added: “The hub has always been for anyone. If it’s in a particular area, the focus short-term is probably that area.

“Drumchapel has lost far too many people in the last 18-24 months, and the focus was Drumchapel, but it became very apparent very quickly that if you replace the name Drumchapel with Pollok, Springburn, or elsewhere, the story is exactly the same.

“We’ve got guys contacting us just now from Fife, Aberdeen, Inverness, and what’s became apparent is, we need to try and make sure that first of all, we build a really strong foundation for Men Matter Scotland, and then start putting satellite offices elsewhere. Not just in Glasgow, but across the country.

“There’s people travelling from all over to come to Drumchapel. We need to make sure that the support network is closer to home for a lot of people. And make sure that whether you’re in North Glasgow, South Glasgow or wherever, that everybody has the same opportunity to go and get this type of support.

Glasgow Times: Darren Jauncey and William Ferguson attend at the hub Darren Jauncey and William Ferguson attend at the hub

“The hardest step that any of our members have taken is walking through that door for the very first time.

“If that is on your doorstep ie Drumchapel, it might be difficult, but it’s five minutes away. If it’s Pollok or Springburn or Fife, that step takes a lot more time, a lot more effort.

“So, a network of community support hubs for us is an absolute must. If we don’t put these satellite community hubs in place, we can make in roads, but we can’t maximise the change we’re looking to enforce.”

In Glasgow’s South Side, several young men have unfortunately lost their lives due to suicide recently, including Edward McEwan from Pollok.

The 28-year-old’s family bravely spoke out about the dad’s mental health struggles on Monday, as the Glasgow Times marked the start of Mental Health Awareness Week.

In March, the family of Scott Docherty, a dad-of-two who took his own life in January, also spoke out in a bid to save others who are struggling.

Scott’s sister, Sharon Walker, previously explained that she wanted a community hub set up in the South Side, and after discovering Men Matter Scotland, she contacted the charity for help.

Sharon said: “Their hub is exactly what is needed everywhere.

“I don’t want these young people’s deaths to be brushed under the carpet. I want something done for our community and for everybody else. I’ve got four boys and two nephews, and it scares me the world they’re growing up in.

Glasgow Times: Scott's mum Linda and sister SharonScott's mum Linda and sister Sharon

“It feels like I’m back to square one every time I hear of another suicide, and that another family are having to go through what we are.

“I’m still in total denial about Scott, and it’s so hard to try and pinpoint how I feel. I know deep down in my head that he’s gone, but my heart refuses to believe it.

“This is why I’m pushing so much for something to be done, because this is my way of coping. This is how I’m getting by day-to-day, because I know if I stop and nothing gets done I’ll probably crumble.”

On Sunday, Sharon, her mum Linda, Scott’s friends, and a group of volunteers from Men Matter spent the morning putting up posters, encouraging people to contact the charity, in Arden, Darnley, Thornliebank, and Carnwadric.

The Men Matter team then met the McEwan family, and posters were put up around Pollok.

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Tom said: “All we’re trying to do is raise awareness of who we are, why we’re here and to try and make sure we can facilitate to people in different areas. We want to ensure people know that they’re not alone. And that is for families as well.

“It’s to try and make sure that they know we’re here, and if somebody in their family or circle is experiencing difficulties, it’s how to identify it, how to get in touch with us and what we can do to work together and try prevent it.”

At the hub in Drumchapel, the members are offered lots of different activities to take part in, such as guitar lessons, walking groups, talking groups, but also training and behavioural techniques.

However, the first thing members are encouraged to do is talk.

Tom added: “Since we started, the number of members has risen pretty dramatically.

“When someone contacts us, we have a one-to-one with them and we get to learn and understand their story, their circumstance, their thought process, and we formulate a plan on how we can try and help them. But we also get other people that just chap the door and say ‘listen, I need help’, and of course we help each and every individual.

“Recently, one of our members took their own life and it was something that was felt across the whole charity organisation.

“It’s something that we take very personally. We recognise that we can’t help everybody. Unfortunately that’s just a realism.

“But it hurts us, and it hurts us hard. And it hurts us whether it’s a member of our group or whether it’s someone who hadn’t had the opportunity to meet and understand what Men Matter do.

“We’re aware that a lot of the guys we have spoken to, we’ve saved. The feedback is genuinely ‘you’ve saved my life’.

Glasgow Times: Jamie McKenzie pictured with the Glasgow Times community champion awards that Men Matter have wonJamie McKenzie pictured with the Glasgow Times community champion awards that Men Matter have won

“I have got no doubt whatsoever that we would help reduce the number of male suicides in the UK by doing what we do across the countries.

“We have a talking group where guys in different stages of their journey can come and talk. But they can also come and listen.

“Talking, for me, is one of the first things I would suggest to try and make yourself feel better.

“There’s been times when there’s been guys there who’ve never met each other before, and everybody ends up in tears, because they can all relate to the stories and the feelings.

“We always say if you’re not sure, come to the talking group and if you want to just listen, listen. But what we find is that most people that go end up talking. It’s incredibly powerful.

“But the whole environment we have in the hub is powerful. Some days you walk in and it’s just an absolute buzz with the carry on and the laughter. When Covid finally leaves us, there’s going to be no stopping us.”

To contact Men Matter Scotland, call 0141 944 7900, message them via Facebook, or visit the hub at 20 Drumchapel Road.

Or to donate, click here.

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