Manchester Life, Miscellaneous, Tips & Advice

#KnowYourCommunity: Talk About It Mate

KnowYourCommunity is an ECBC campaign that hopes to raise awareness of groups/charities/organisations/people that help those living with a mental illness and empowering others. This month we spoke to Mike from Talk About It Mate all about social enterprise organisation and what they do to help people with their mental health.

My name is Mike Richard and I am the founder of Talk About It Mate, a social enterprise based in Greater Manchester. I am 34 and live in Salford and I am married to Laura. I have worked as Primary teacher for the past decade, and I am currently studying for a Masters in Counselling and Psychotherapy at The University of Salford.

I launched Talk About It Mate as a community on MeetUp in October 2017. It came about because of work I had been doing on my own mental health since I had a nervous breakdown in November 2015. I had made significant improvements in my own self-awareness, confidence and self-esteem and wanted to create something which I would have used at my lowest point. It has now grown into a thriving organisation with a reach of 2000 people.

Talk About It Mate offer free and confidential Men’s and Women’s Online Peer Support Groups over Zoom. These happen twice weekly and are a safe space to interact with others from the community, facilitated my dedicated members of the group.

In addition to these meetings, we have recently added a Saturday Tea and Talk group for all members to connect. We also have a monthly walking group, book club and podcast club, all of which can be found on MeetUp.

We are currently in negotiations to reintroduce a face to face men’s group in South Manchester, launching in November. I will also be starting to deliver an Introduction to Counselling Skills Course over the coming months.

Talk About It Mate host regular walks and events (currently with social distance measures in place) image taken from Instagram

[In regards to how I feel about mental health services today] I feel that there is provision out there which is very good, however there is not a wide range of accessible options for some people. Every user has different needs and expectations. I have used services in the past and have received CBT and attended Wellbeing workshops, before discovering Person-centred therapy. Due to lack of funding, front line services struggle to cope with the number of people needing support. Opportunities to connect with others going through similar things are limited.

This presents many barriers to personal growth, which is why there are so many fantastic voluntary groups providing peer support. We aim to provide safe spaces for connection and exploration for those who may not have access to it elsewhere. My personal thoughts regarding those who are not at serious risk are there are plenty of sources of support out there, and my own experience is that you get out what you put in, in terms of self-exploration.

As a man, what comes to mind when you hear the phrase ‘man up’? What harm do you think this phrase causes?

As someone who has been told to ‘man-up’ during my struggles, it can imply weakness and suggest that by displaying my feelings and not being able to deal with them I was in some way a failure. It reinforced the idea that to be a man was to not display emotion, never fail, never open-up.

Overall, those words just made me feel wrong, then I started to believe I was not good enough, which lasted for about 12 years. It damaged my relationships with family, friends, and partners but most importantly with myself. That culminated in a painful breakdown which completely changed my life.

Nowadays I am more comfortable in my skin than I’ve ever been. Even though I still struggle with my MH from time to time, I have the coping mechanisms and network around me to advocate for myself in these situations. I am the kind of man I am happy being and I believe that all men, and all people, should strive to be the most authentic version of themselves as possible. Be whoever you want to be, so long as you don’t cause harm to yourself or others!

What helps you with your mental health?

The way I see myself, my amazing wife Laura, connecting with others as my authentic self, regular talk therapy, access to the outdoors, regular exercise, podcasts, playing football games from the 90s!

I have recently started journaling which is helping me to process my thoughts and feelings as I grow and challenge myself more.

Where do you see Talk About It Mate in the future?

The growth of Talk About It Mate as an organisation, combined with my own professional growth has generated a wide range of possibilities and directions for the organisation. Wherever it may go, I am passionate to ensure TAIM remains a safe space for growth.

In addition to our non-profit services, groups and Meetups we will be able to deliver:

• Private and Subsidised Person-Centred Counselling.
• Training for new facilitators and peer support leaders.
• Online Courses.
• Workplace Wellbeing Training.
• Networking Events based around Mental Health.
• Mental Health and Wellbeing Education in Schools.
• Mental Health based Media Production.

While this may seem ambitious, instead of thinking – I can’t do this, I now think, why can’t I?

Thank you to Mike and Talk About It Mate for being involved in our #KnowYourCommunity campaign. You can find more information here about Talk About It Mate or via social media platforms Facebook, Twitter and Instagram.

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