HUMEN: Changing the Landscape of Men’s Mental Health Support

Becky Banham
By Becky Banham,
updated on Dec 6, 2019

HUMEN: Changing the Landscape of Men’s Mental Health Support

New mental health charity HUMEN has released a documentary series to encourage men to open up, raising the profile of their support groups for men

In the last year, we’ve seen more and more campaigns highlighting men’s roles in understanding and improving their own mental health. We had a Royal Team Talk with HRH Prince William, saw Alastair Campbell open up about his experience of depression, and heard David Harewood talk about psychosis, amongst many more.

Yet, despite the strides we are taking to encourage men to talk about mental health, there is still much to be done. Significantly, in offering the physical space for men to be able to talk about these issues. This is where support groups provide an invaluable resource.

Groups such as Andy’s Man Club and brand new mental health charity HUMEN are leading a movement, looking to improve and maintain men's mental health by providing spaces where men can meet regularly in a non-clinical environment to discuss their issues.

Founder of HUMEN, River Hawkins said: “75% of all UK suicides are male. It's not enough to just say men need to talk, so we're providing spaces. It can’t just be about awareness, it needs to be about action and prevention.

“HUMEN was born out of my own mental health issues and first-hand experience of the lack of support currently available. I am determined to use what I’ve learned to help other men who are suffering. If something like HUMEN existed when I was struggling, I wouldn’t have had to be in that place for as long.

“We shouldn’t be waiting for people to be in crisis before we help. I am determined to use what I’ve learnt to make it more accessible for men to maintain their mental health on a regular basis.”

The initiative is supported by several well-known faces including Bill Nighy, Danny Cipriani, Alan Carr, Tom Odell, Andrew Scott and David Gandy, all of whom have appeared in a five-part documentary series of films, titled The HUMEN Series. Alongside these familiar faces, we see other men from all walks of life, who speak candidly about their mental health struggles.

HUMEN's founder River Hawkins and actor Andrew Scott, recording for The HUMEN Series

HUMEN's founder River Hawkins and actor Andrew Scott, recording for The HUMEN Series

The series is directed and produced by HUMEN’s founder River Hawkins. The first film was released on the London Evening Standard’s website on 24 September, with films released weekly thereafter.

  1. Change featuring Tom Odell. (September 24)
  2. Identity featuring David Gandy and Alan Carr. (October 1)
  3. Relationships featuring Danny Cipriani. (October 8)
  4. Perspective featuring Bill Nighy. (October 15)
  5. Hope featuring Andrew Scott. (October 22)

The final episode in the series, ‘Hope’, has been released today.

What is hope?

In this episode, we explore what hope is – or rather, what hopelessness is and how it manifests itself in our lives. We hear from men about particularly difficult times in their lives; dealing with the realities of addiction, eating disorders and losing close loved ones.

“I always find it very helpful to think of my emotions as weather. What’s the weather like today?”

Actor Andrew Scott shares his experience of dealing with personal loss while he was playing the title role of Hamlet in 2017 – a time which he describes as “incredibly painful and hard” but one that was cathartic and “helpful” for his role.

He goes on to describe his own way of dealing with his emotions. “I always find it very helpful to think of my emotions as weather. What’s the weather like today? Because I find that the sun does always come out. Sometimes the winter lasts a very long time and sometimes you think that it’s always going to be summer but it’s never going to be that – it’s going to be all of those things. To have as seasonal a life as possible is the thing to strive for.”

We also hear an emotional and raw account from River Hawkins, founder of HUMEN, about his own history of mental ill-health. “Hitting rock bottom for me ended up being a blessing or a gift or whatever you want to call it. But, at the time, you lose all hope.”

River tells us that, in everything he was experiencing, he felt as though he was ‘in a no man’s land’ because, despite his struggles, he didn’t contemplate suicide as an option. “I didn’t want to kill myself, I honestly didn’t. But I was in this no man’s land because I was saying I don’t want to live but, at the same time, I don’t want to die. So I didn’t know what to do.

“Someone said to me, ‘Don’t let your head steal your day’ and I wrote that down on a post-it note and stuck it on the back of my door. So that would be the first thing I would see every morning to keep reminding me every day to not let my head steal my day, and that helped. And I just had to keep repeating that as a mantra in my head.”

We are left feeling that hope is simple – it’s being able to see that there is light, in spite of all the darkness. And there is perhaps no better way to summarise how support groups like HUMEN can help to support men through times of difficulty; providing a ray of light when all hope seems lost.

The first HUMEN Spaces are now open in London and Manchester, running every Wednesday from 6:30pm – 7.30pm. There are now plans for expansion, to have HUMEN spaces in every region across the UK as the charity grows. For more information or to make a donation, visit the charity’s website.

You can watch the full documentary series on HUMEN’s YouTube channel.

If you or a loved one are struggling with your mental health, know that support is available. Find out how counselling could help and find a counsellor near you at Counselling Directory.

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