Two friends from Lisburn are preparing to launch a new support group that will offer young men a safe place to come together and talk about mental health issues.
With suicide rates among young males having increased significantly over the past two decades, Aaron McIntyre and his friend were determined to do something constructive to help stem the tide of needless deaths.
In August last year the former Wallace High School pupils came up with the idea of forming an independent support group aimed specifically at young men aged between 16 and 35 years.
“We started out with a survey which was shared on social media. The survey results were analysed and fed into developing the project based on what young guys wanted,” Aaron explained.
This Sunday (January 21), Aaron and his friend, who didn’t want to be named for personal reasons, will launch a new group called Behind the Masc - the name referring to the fact that young men tend to hide behind their masculinity.
“Young men are less likely to talk about the problems they are facing. Through this project we want to provide a safe space for young men to come together for mutual support,” Aaron continued.
“The original idea came from his first hand experience of the lack of help geared towards young men. We both felt there was the need do be proactive and if something was not being done to help young guys, then we would do what we could to fill the gap.
“We believe that the lack of mental health services for men is part of a vicious cycle. In society there is still a perception that guys should be strong, and to talk about mental health problems is still seen as a weakness. If men aren’t encouraged to speak about their issues, then healthcare providers won’t know about the need, and the issue comes full circle. However things are changing slowly, and there have been a number of campaigns to encourage men to speak up and to break the stigma. Men still tend to hide behind their masculinity, and this is where the name Behind the Masc came from.”
The 26-year-old continued: “The aim of the project is to provide young guys with mental health issues with a safe space where they can meet with others facing similar difficulties. We want to show them that they are not alone, and that it takes strength to talk about their issues. We want young men to see that suicide is not the answer, and hopefully help them to realise that they are not alone and provide them with support.
“We have received support from PIPS (Public Initiative for the Prevention of Suicide and Self Harm) and Lifeline who have offered to come along and talk about their services and how the group could benefit from them. We also have leaflets from them and the Public Health Agency, so that we can signpost guys who need them to other services.”
Behind the Masc meetings will take place in Club Room 2 at Queen’s University Students’ Union, Belfast every Sunday at 7pm.
For more information check out the Facebook page - www.facebook.com/BehindTheMascBelfast