When bottling up his emotions became too much, Scott Oughton-Johnson decided to seek help but felt something was still missing. This saw the birth of ‘The Proper Blokes Club’, which aims to encourage more men to speak up about their mental health
The suicide rate amongst men is more than triple that of women, with this being the most likely cause of death for men under 50 years old. So, why don’t more men speak up? Well, the answer often lies in our deep-rooted gender stereotypes that portray men as being strong and in control. But, it’s now 2022 and this needs to change because more and more men are being damaged by society’s expectations.
What’s more, men are less likely than women to reach out for support, with only 36% of referrals to NHS psychological therapies being for men.
Scott Oughton-Johnson was one man who decided to take the brave step of acknowledging he needed help, after separating from his previous partner and spending 10 years in and out of court facing a custody battle over his children.
The south London community sports coach admits he bottled up his feelings for a decade, saying, “The stress and anxiety were killing me”. In 2017, Scott decided enough was enough and received cognitive behavioural therapy (CBT) on the NHS, but their sessions were limited and, before long, Scott found himself “back in the wild”.
After realising something was still missing, Scott found release in his love for walking and, in 2020, set up a Facebook group to try and reach other men who were going through similar battles with their mental health. Scott would meet up with other men in his position and they would walk through the streets of London, through parks, or down a canal, talking openly about their feelings - allowing them to practice mindfulness and be in the moment. ‘The Proper Blokes Club’ was born.
What started as a rather disheartening one person attending has now grown to anywhere between five and 35 men meeting up every Monday and Wednesday. “It kept growing and growing,” Scott says. Scott has now recruited 'walk leaders' who arrange walks across other boroughs of London, to allow for more men to get involved.
The club provides a safe space for men to talk about their mental health “without the potential judgment you might get from friends and family”. Naturally, friendships have been formed, with the youngest member being just 19, and the oldest, 75. The walkers are added to a WhatsApp group, and each day they check in on one another.
“How many of those [deaths] might have been stopped through a conversation?”
Scott's goal is to register the club as a ‘community interest’ company and roll it out to all London boroughs and nationally. In the meantime, he’s encouraging people to start their own groups.
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Getting men talking
There are a number of resources available for those wanting to read more or continue their journey to support their mental health.
The Mental Health Foundation is working to equip people with the tools they need to support men and their mental health, including in schools and prisons.
The Samaritans are available for a chat or simply to listen to your thoughts 24/7 on 116 123 or you can email [email protected].
Men's Minds Matter is a not-for-profit organisation dedicated to helping prevent suicide. They have a variety of resources, self-help guidance and information on coping in a crisis on their website.
Tackling old-school masculinity, the Book of Man is a support network for men that gives advice and tools needed to challenge the stigma attached to men’s mental health.
MAN UP is also seeking to change the way we view the throwaway term and change people’s thoughts about men’s mental health. They have a range of resources where help is available and feature videos of men talking about a wide variety of topics.
Counselling Directory can give you the support you need by finding a private counsellor or therapist, as well as a number of resources and self-help advice for a variety of mental health problems.