Councillor reveals his own issues as he backs mental health and physical wellbeing project

A COUNCILLOR detailed his own personal struggles as Mossley Town Council discussed an application for funding to help improve the mental health and physical wellbeing of men.

Cllr Stephen Homer was speaking as the Mossley-based GW Theatre Company sought a £1,500 grant towards the £2,000 cost of running The Mortal Man Project, which would be aimed at men aged over 50 years.

It has been devised by Dave Jones, the theatre company’s creative director, who has had his own health issues at the age of 57 and has taken up cycling to help combat high blood pressure.
Cllr Homer, who also represents the town on Tameside Council, backed the project.

He explained: “It is a great idea. I hit 50 last year and became a grandparent for the first time and I want to be around for them (twins).

“I was putting on weight and had high blood pressure and have taken inspiration from Dave.

Cllr Jack Homer pictured with his father Cllr Stephen Homer

“I have started cycling for the first time and walking and have lost two-and-a-half stone. I was 19st 4lb and am now below 17st.

“I want to see my grandchildren grow up and chase them around the park which is why I decided to make the change.

“I have started a blog and the interaction I have received has inspired me to carry on.”

Cllr Homer added there is a “ticking time bomb” in Tameside with regards to obesity and suicide which suggested existing organisations are finding it difficult to engage with vulnerable people which is why The Mortal Man Project should be explored.

Dave added there are pressing issues with the mental health and physical wellbeing of men in Tameside, which has the third highest suicide rate in the UK, while there is also an issue with obesity.

He explained The Mortal Man Project is a creative approach to men’s mental health and physical wellbeing, with a particular focus on engaging ‘difficult to reach’ men aged over 50 in positive health, wellbeing and mental health activities.

In his submission to the town council, Dave wrote: “This is a completely new project which we would like to pilot with this funding. It is strongly built around face-to-face work but has a digital element too.

“We believe the model has great potential for larger scale delivery across Greater Manchester and beyond, bringing benefit to both its immediate participants, families and communities and to other people who engage with the outputs of the work digitally.

“There is an urgent need to support men aged 50 plus, particularly in working class communities where there are considerable socio-economic and political barriers to engagement and pro-active involvement.

“These people feel invisible and without value, and we must do whatever is possible to empower them with the confidence and self-belief they need to take better care of themselves and their families.

“This is a bold and exciting idea to work in non-judgemental ways with some of the most difficult people to reach.

“It seeks to grow a seed of hope in helping to address very deep-rooted issues which are having a profound and life-changing impact on those who experience them.

“By taking a creative approach we can ‘hide’ the issues behind and within social and creative activities, which will be designed to build up trust and a rapport with men.

“An awful lot of health and mental health advice inadvertently comes across as judgmental and defeating like ‘your BMI says you are obese’, ‘do you drink heavily?’ and ‘you should aim to walk 10,000 steps a day’. This can make a person feel like a failure and hopeless.

“A man who is living an unhealthy, or dangerous, lifestyle is quite likely to already know that. The issue is how we break down that wall.

“The holy grail of change is to find a way in which men can be helped to understand and appreciate that making even a small change can positively affect the rest of their life.

“This could be walking a mile twice a week. Having one day off from alcohol. Getting that nagging pain or ache checked out by the doctor. Telling someone how low you feel. Wanting to be alive and here for as long as possible.”

Dave, who is applying for funding to run a similar scheme in Stalybridge, added it would be great if the foundations for the project were in Mossley.

Town councillors were unanimous in believing it is a great initiative.

However, due to its complex nature, they are seeking more information before they grant the money.

They want Dave to discuss his project with Karen Simpson, senior health and welfare manager of Be Well Tameside, who told town council chair Cllr Frank Travis she is keen to become involved.

• Since 1986, the award-winning GW Theatre Company has been producing powerful and thought-provoking dramas, animations and films which engage and enthral audiences and help to educate and empower young people and adults.

The company bases its work on research and collaboration with young people, families, schools, local authorities and most social agencies, and is acclaimed for its unique knack for hitting just the right tone in addressing pressing issues and distilling them into exciting creative and cultural work which has a profound and lasting impact on audiences, participants and communities.

The company has a particular interest in reaching people who do not normally engage in creativity or culture, particularly those who might experience barriers to taking part in it because of their socio-economic status. The company tours and works regionally and nationally.

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