The SU initiative was originally conceived through the meeting of minds called ‘Man Made’ in June 2016. A group of people looking at innovative support systems and frameworks to combat the growing issue of male suicide in the UK.
We are steadfast, we are unflinching, we are men…and let us be straight about this…we are dying by our own hands.
It has been said that we live in a patriarchal society where all the trappings benefit men. We are masters of our own destiny. We often, unfairly, have better paid jobs and greater representation in both the business and political power houses that governs the UK in comparison to women. We are expected, on the whole, to be quicker in pace and stronger in arm. We are the providers, the protectors, the fixers, the guides, the shoulders to cry on – we are men, real men – but who are we kidding? Probably just ourselves.
Three out of four suicides in the UK are by men. In the time it takes you to make a cuppa, switch on the TV and watch a Hollywood Blockbuster, another one of us in the UK will have killed ourselves.
We are your sons, your husbands, your brothers, your fathers, your work colleagues, your friends and your soul mates and we are finding it increasingly difficult to survive in an ever changing world. Because there’s a problem. It’s all a smokescreen, a sweeping stereotype, or at very best, a part truth – because many of us are not coping very well at all. We are, after all, just men and although our world has changed so much, many of us haven’t moved with it. But why would we? Why should we? We know who we are. We are steadfast, we are unflinching…we are men.
It’s a fact that we are all, to a large degree, the result of the way we were raised and many of us, as men, are the result of a family upbringing that instilled in us the traditional concept of manliness and all the ‘strengths’ it espoused. So into the world we have gone with our identity and we are proud to be real men, and for a while, for many of us, all has been good. But as time has gone by, the traditional male role in society has become less valued whilst opportunities for all across the board have necessarily become the norm. With the gulf between the world of the traditional man and the requirements of a rapidly evolving modern society ever widening, many of us are falling through the gap and because we are real menwe don’t ask for help. Real men don’t.
So how do we survive? Often badly.
We wear masks amongst our peers which serves to uphold and further reinforce the stereotype of being the real man we need people to believe we are. Or we adopt traits that allow us to fleetingly dull the inner pain – we take to the bottle or the chemical and often both. But we are acutely aware that beneath this façade that threatens to crack at any moment our voices are silently screaming out to be heard, listened to, acted upon – but the silence of the real man ensures nothing is heard and the real man within us remains “in check” – maintained all the way through to the point that for some of us – we would rather die than say “I need help.”
But it doesn’t stop there. As society evolves we continue to instil all our manly ‘ways of being’ to our male offspring – helping them become ‘real men’…helping them become a square peg in a society that requires round ones. When we take our own lives, it’s not selfish to us – we do this because we believe we are of no value; we believe we don’t belong; we believe you would be better off without us…we believe that for everybody, including ourselves, we would be better off dead.
So there needs to be a change, a major shift in understanding across society because being ‘real men’ in the traditional sense is killing us. But, more importantly, the shift needs to start with us…as men…and the first thing we need to get into our heads is this…
There is no strength in silence…Real Men need to reach out to survive.
ManMade, as an overarching approach, is one way, we believe, of making this a possibility.
What is ManMade?
Through being out in the open, ManMade looks to encapsulate through a range of approaches a realisation that we can do something to reduce the numbers of men dying by suicide in the UK each year. To do this we need to ensure variety in our approach – we need to harness social media, organise high profile accessible events, we need to lobby and deliver a ranger of high quality tailored programmes delivered across communities.
ManMade was originally developed in January 2015 and piloted in Dudley with funding from the Office of Public Health (Dudley Metropolitan Borough Council) to support unemployed men who were finding it difficult to cope with life and in many cases didn’t feel they had a reason to go on.
ManMade developed rapidly into a peer led support group for men which proved highly successful in promoting well-being and inclusion among participants and has continued to go from strength to strength.
The ManMade programme has since been implemented a second time; but on this occasion with participants from the initial pilot being involved in the delivery of this service bringing with them personal experiences and knowledge gained for the benefit of the new participants.
Conceptualised, designed and delivered by Birmingham based Forward For Life and Common Unity Social Enterprises, alongside highly skilled Grassroots Associates, ManMade as an overarching approach is gathering speed as an effective approach to helping men survive.
We are currently beginning work alongside a national charity to further develop and test the ManMade Programme as an independently evaluated pilot, with the potential for rolling this specific programme across the country.
Communities who have the challenges are, more often than not, the very same communities that hold the solution. Forward For Life operates with the core belief that although there are many challenges that exist across and within our communities, solutions to these challenges are also to be found across and within our communities. With an overall goal of supporting communities to be Suicide Safer, we adopt forward thinking approaches to reduce inequalities and promote opportunities for enhanced well-being and improved quality of life – We believe this is both an achievable expectation across all our communities and the right of each and every individual within.
Our approach achieves both indirect and direct benefits for our communities, and with this in mind, we ensure that our partners, our associates and others’ working alongside us have the same core belief. Through our varied worksteams, tailored and licensed community centred development programmes including Applied Suicide Interventions Skills Training, Third Sector Capacity Building and Primary Care Development, we ensure that stakeholders across the board are effectively engaged at all levels to realise improved quality of life and well-being. Forward For Life is working towards a future where inequalities within society are reduced and opportunities for enhanced well-being and improved quality of life is an achievable expectation across all our communities.
Common Unity looks to promote mental wellbeing in disadvantaged communities through effective communication and the development of holistic services.
Established in 2009, Common Unity engages with and looks to promote well-being across communities through effective communication and the development of community centred holistic services.
We work with individuals, communities, decision makers and service providers to overcome barriers to communication and build on community potential, ensuring that services are both accessible and relevant.
Common Unity has been commissioned by the Local Authority, the NHS and a variety of Third Sector organisations in Birmingham, Sandwell and wider, to support them in research, consultation and programme development with a range of communities for the benefit of those communities through harnessing and building on community assets within.