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Silverbacks: the men's group tackling mental health

Men’s Health Week runs from 10th – 16th June each year, raising awareness of issues that affect men’s lives day in, day out.

According to the UK group, Men’s Health Forum: “One man in five dies before he is old enough to retire.”

Alongside raising awareness of the physical health issues many men face, the week is also about raising awareness of issues that may not be visible to others. Recent years have brought a swing of understanding of the reality that poor mental health, social isolation and loneliness can just as harmful to men’s lives as physical ailments – and men not talking about these issues can exacerbate the problem.

In Wirral, there is a group looking to respond to the need for many men to open up, to share and to address these issues.

The Silverbacks are a group of men who meet once a week to support one another. Originally an initiative of Wirral Ways to Recovery, the group is open to all men aged 18+ and has been running since 2015.

Men from all backgrounds meet to take part in different activities which have so far included; planting trees, repurposing materials to build benches and play areas, writing poetry, attending retreats in North Wales and even producing theatre alongside students from LIPA.

Tony Hooper, a founding member of the group and volunteer, joined the Silverbacks in 2015 after suffering a cardiac arrest which caused him to stop working to preserve his health.

According to Tony: “It gave me purpose, after having to stop working. I had to relearn, reinvent myself after, working all my life.”

“It’s about providing a space for men, from any background, to give back and fine their worth.”

While the group doesn’t specifically focus on mental health, it is a natural bi-product of the work they do as a collective, which Tony describes as “a saviour to me, personally.”

Whether people want to talk about their issues, or just get on with the task at hand, the Silverbacks are there to support those inside and out of the group, as their work benefits the local community as well as reducing social isolation for men.

Tony continues: “It’s about sharing skills, community integration and just being there for support.”

“I want men to know that you don’t have to be in isolation, you’re not the only one experiencing it. So, when you’re ready, it’s there.”

To join the Silverbacks, simply call the group’s coordinator Damien on 07846 357415 to give an idea of numbers, or just turn up any Tuesday from 10am at BEE Wirral, Livingstone Community & Play Centre, 130 St. Anne’s Street, Birkenhead, CH41 3HX.

According to the Men’s Health Forum, here are the seven numbers that all men need to know about their health:

  • 37 - a waist size of 37 inches or above puts you at increased of heart disease, diabetes and cancer.
  • 150 - men should aim for 150 minutes of moderate physical activity a week.
  • 5 - we should aim to eat 5 portions of fruit and veg a day.
  • 14 - maximum 14 units of alcohol a week.
  • 10 - cigarette smokers die 10 years younger on average than non-smokers.
  • 120/80 - normal blood pressure.
  • 75 - 75% of suicides (3 out of 4) are by men.

Visit www.menshealthforum.org.uk for more information on Men’s Health Week and future awareness events.