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.
Oisin O’Donnell and Martin McDonagh, who are both 19 years-old, took the brave decision
to 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 the
idea that men are expected to ‘man up’ when things get difficult.
The pair decided to launch their ‘Man Down’ campaign to coincide with World Mental
Health Day on Thursday, October 10. This year’s theme was the prevention of suicide
which 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 good
relations programme delivered in partnership by Extern and Verbal.
Third Space works with young people to support and make a tangible difference to their
lives. The project is supported through EU funding under PEACE IV Programme managed by
the Special EU Programmes Body (SEUPB)
Over the course of six months, Oisin and Martin worked with project workers on creating a
short digital film. However, keen to have their voices heard, these inspirational men did not
stop there. They wanted their positive message to reach as many young men and women
as possible. After securing a grant from the ‘Change Something Fund,’ they have been able
to take their campaign one step further.
Working with local artist, Rebecca Duddy, they have designed a wall mural, which is
currently on display outside Verbal. They have also designed wristbands which includes
their ‘Man Down’ logo alongside Lifeline’s 24hour helpline number.
Following their launch, Oisin and Martin hope to engage with youth groups in and around
the city to promote their message.
Revealing why they decided to focus on men’s mental health, Oisin O’Donnell said: “From
our own personal experiences, Martin and I know how difficult it is to speak out and to
admit that you are not feeling ok. That’s hard and it takes guts. A lot of the time, men
especially, feel that they can’t talk about their emotions or they feel that they have to be
strong but they don’t.
He continued: “I have seen first-hand how struggling with mental health issues can
devastate families and friendships. What we hope to achieve through this campaign is to
encourage men and women to speak out and to ask for the help and support that they
need. We want to spread this message far and wide and we are grateful that Third Space
and 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’ve
made so far.
“Digital storytelling lies at the heart of Verbal’s work within the Third Space Project- offering
young people a voice and a platform to share that voice. From the very beginning, Martin
and Oisin were determined that they wanted to create a digital piece on mental health to
encourage 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 had
created something very powerful, but it’s their determination to help others that has been
the driving force in the pushing this campaign forward. They should be very proud of all
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 Third
Space is no exception. We have helped to build things like resilience, self-confidence and
important social interaction skills – all of which are vital as they develop into young adults
and make their mark in the world.
“The Man Down campaign and what it aims to do are all the more authentic because these
are 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 they
need, then that will be a remarkable achievement,” said Joanna.