'Man Down' encourages others to speak up about mental illness

TWO young men from Derry are heading up a mental health campaign in a bid to encourage men to speak out about how they feel.

Thursday, 10th October 2019, 5:33 pm
Updated Thursday, 10th October 2019, 6:33 pm
Pictured at the launch of the Man Down project in the Verbal Arts centre are Sean ODonnell, Key Worker, Claire Harkin, Project Manager, Mayor of Derry City and Strabane Colr. Michaela Boyle and Oisin ODonnell, Man Down Film Production Team. The project aims to create awareness around speaking out about mental health issues, particularly among young men. DER4119GS 036

Oisin O’Donnell and Martin McDonagh, who are both 19 years-old, took the brave decisionto share their own personal struggles in a move to help others.Working together, they came up with their ‘Man Down’ concept which aims to dismiss theidea that men are expected to ‘man up’ when things get difficult.The pair decided to launch their ‘Man Down’ campaign to coincide with World MentalHealth Day on Thursday, October 10. This year’s theme was the prevention of suicidewhich made the timing of their event even more fitting.The young men first came up with the initiative when taking part in Third Space, a goodrelations programme delivered in partnership by Extern and Verbal.Third Space works with young people to support and make a tangible difference to theirlives. The project is supported through EU funding under PEACE IV Programme managed bythe Special EU Programmes Body (SEUPB)Over the course of six months, Oisin and Martin worked with project workers on creating ashort digital film. However, keen to have their voices heard, these inspirational men did notstop there. They wanted their positive message to reach as many young men and womenas possible. After securing a grant from the ‘Change Something Fund,’ they have been ableto take their campaign one step further.Working with local artist, Rebecca Duddy, they have designed a wall mural, which iscurrently on display outside Verbal. They have also designed wristbands which includestheir ‘Man Down’ logo alongside Lifeline’s 24hour helpline number.Following their launch, Oisin and Martin hope to engage with youth groups in and aroundthe city to promote their message.Revealing why they decided to focus on men’s mental health, Oisin O’Donnell said: “Fromour own personal experiences, Martin and I know how difficult it is to speak out and toadmit that you are not feeling ok. That’s hard and it takes guts. A lot of the time, menespecially, feel that they can’t talk about their emotions or they feel that they have to bestrong but they don’t.He continued: “I have seen first-hand how struggling with mental health issues candevastate families and friendships. What we hope to achieve through this campaign is toencourage men and women to speak out and to ask for the help and support that theyneed. We want to spread this message far and wide and we are grateful that Third Spaceand The Change Something Fund has given the opportunity to do this,” said Oisin.Claire Harkin, Third Space Manager for Verbal has praised both men for the journey they’vemade so far.“Digital storytelling lies at the heart of Verbal’s work within the Third Space Project- offeringyoung people a voice and a platform to share that voice. From the very beginning, Martinand Oisin were determined that they wanted to create a digital piece on mental health toencourage people, particularly young men, to speak out about what they are going through.All their hard work and dedication to the project has paid off. We knew that they hadcreated something very powerful, but it’s their determination to help others that has beenthe driving force in the pushing this campaign forward. They should be very proud of allthey’ve achieved.”

Joanna Tarach, Third Space Manager for Extern has also commended both men.“Extern is an organisation which always puts people at the centre of its work, and ThirdSpace is no exception. We have helped to build things like resilience, self-confidence andimportant social interaction skills – all of which are vital as they develop into young adultsand make their mark in the world.“The Man Down campaign and what it aims to do are all the more authentic because theseare the voices of our young people which are being heard – openly, directly and honestly.And if the Man Down message can help even one other young person to seek the help theyneed, then that will be a remarkable achievement,” said Joanna.

Pictured at the launch of the Man Down project in the Verbal Arts centre are Sean ODonnell, Key Worker, Claire Harkin, Project Manager, Mayor of Derry City and Strabane Colr. Michaela Boyle and Oisin ODonnell, Man Down Film Production Team. The project aims to create awareness around speaking out about mental health issues, particularly among young men. DER4119GS 036