The founder of a pioneering service believed to be the first of its type in the UK dedicated to tackling men’s mental health issues says similar schemes nationwide would “help save the NHS millions.”
Andy Matthews established a support group for men with mental health problems in 2014 at Holywell based KIM Inspire – 12 years after the charity was founded to help women suffering similar issues.
Initially set up as a trial during Andy’s studies with Wrexham Glyndwr University, the KIM-4-HIM project has already helped hundreds of men in North Wales to cope with issues including anxiety, depression, schizophrenia and bipolar.
Tackling masculinity is at the heart of the initiative, which provides a weekly drop-in service for men to socialise and take part in activities and projects in the community.
“There is no other service of the kind we offer in Wales or the UK which tackles masculinity – that is factors which preclude men from seeking help because of their social construction.
“Men won’t seek support and turn to other coping methods – alcohol, drugs and unfortunately suicide – before asking for help with emotional issues.
“We’re ahead of the curve in terms of the innovative type of service we offer and we’re increasingly forging links with the community, for example developing volunteering opportunities with Holywell Town Football Club.
“The project started with a target of helping 12 clients during a five month trial period. We had 12 people by the end of the second week.
“All of the evidence points towards a need for this type of service in the third sector and if I had my way it would be in every town in the world.
The community work makes so much sense and the cost saving impact of working with people at the lowest level of contact is massive.”
Service user David James has attended the weekly drop-in sessions for three years.
He said: “I’m with like-minded people who experience similar problems in their own lives when I come here and because it’s a social environment it has helped a lot. It’s incredibly valuable having a service like this on my doorstep.”
Andy switched career following a 14-year career with the RAF, where he progressed to become a senior instructor and took on roles with responsibility for staff welfare.
He was accepted at Wrexham Glyndwr University with only two GCSEs based on his extensive experience and graduated with a first class degree and departmental award for his achievements.
“It was a big jump and I took a huge pay cut to start on my career as a social worker but I’m now in a job that I love,” said Andy.
“And I wouldn’t dream of leaving either because of the satisfaction and huge rewards from the outcomes you can get working with individuals who are potentially marginalised by society.
“I’ve brought military skills and values to my post at KIM – respect and integration – to make the KIM 4 HIM project a success.
“The university took a chance on me when they offered me a place without formal educational qualifications which I’ll forever be grateful to them for.”
For more information on the KIM-4-HIM project visit kim-inspire.org.uk