A new Men’s Health initiative has been launched in Derry aimed at providing a relaxed space were men can get checked out and educated about their own mental and physical health.
The ‘It’s A Man’s World’ initiative has been instigated and developed by Habinteg Community Assistant Margaret Cunningham, and is based in the Common Room at Inch View in Hazelbank.
Margaret said she was delighted with the turn out for the launch event on Thursday last.
Explaining the rationale behind the project, Margaret, who has previously run many health initiatives and events in the community, said:
“My idea was to come up with something specific for men because there are many health conditions and diseases men face that can be prevented and treated if found early. It is important that men understand the risk factors and how to improve overall health.
“I wanted to create a place of safety where people would feel comfortable and there was no invasion of privacy and where we can help, support and signpost.
“The launch was a great event and I didn’t have enough seats to cover the number of people that came, but thankfully there was sunshine and we had stacking chairs and we were able to give the men newspapers to sit outside. They got into clusters and chatted away. I was delighted with the way it turned out.”
Margaret said she now plans to run similar events every three months, focusing on a different aspect of men’s health. “This opening event was focused on Mental Health, and the next one will focus on coronary heart disease,” she said. “The reasons I started off with Mental Health was because it is one of the biggest issues at the minute, and men are not as talkative.”
Margaret said the idea to focus on mental health at the opening event actually came from the recently featured storylines on ITV soap opera Coronation Street revolving around suicide and suicide prevention, which have been praised for their sensitive handling of the subject.
Marie Dunne from the Western Health and Social Care Board was invited to attend the event, along with Cahir Murray from Parenting NI, and Michael McCafferty from People Plus in Patrick Street in the city centre, which offers people help with employment support and skills training as well as support services, to help transform people’s lives.
Also in attendance at the ‘Breakfast, Banter & Balded’ event were City Turkish Barbers, who offered the men who came along vouchers for a shave.
Cahir Murray from a new Parenting NI DADS Project praised ‘It’s A Man’s World’ and described Margaret as a “wonderful ambassador for the work she is doing on men’s health”.
Cahir said: “The initiative Margaret has come up with is very, very important. Men’s health and particularly men’s mental health ,hasn’t really got the PR in the past, and someone actually supporting men to look at what they are doing in regards to their health and well being is vital, particularly when you look at the issues locally around mental health.”
Cahir said the project was also helping to tackle perceptions of men looking after themselves, while also helping and supporting local men to see their own value and importance as human beings and within their families, and in passing on those values.
“By Margaret bringing us in also they are getting support there in an informal setting and being valued, being listened to,” he said.
Margaret thanked the contributors from the various agencies and businesses who took part on Thursday, and said she was delighted that so many participants, including local residents and members of the mens cancer support group the Pink Panthers, came along on the day.
She also thanked Habinteg for providing the funding for the breakfasts.
“Hopefully through this we can start conversations, identify needs and provide information.
“I would encourage anyone to come along here, not just to the events, but if they wanted to drop in to the Common Room at Inch View they can have a health check at any time,” Margaret said.