With suicide being the biggest cause of death for men under the age of 50, male mental health is a topic for concern. This November is Men’s Health Awareness Month so we caught up with O&M London’s Chief Strategy Officer, Kevin Chesters, to talk about the mental health of men and find out more about our work with Time to Change.

Why is the topic of men’s mental health so important?

It’s such an important topic, mental health, and men’s mental health as a part of that. Three out of four suicides in this country are men. We’ve come on in leaps and bounds, I think, in the last few years on the topic of mental health – it being a topic that it’s ok to talk about and ok to bring up with friends and in the workplace. But there has been one set of people, one target audience, for who things haven’t moved on hugely. For this group of people mental health hasn’t properly come to the fore as a topic to talk about. That group of people is blokes.

Why is mental health such a difficult topic for men in particular?

We did a lot of work with Time to Change this year in trying to reach guys. The key issue to break down is the stigma around mental health. And to do this we had to find the best way to get men talking about it.

Blokes didn’t choose not to talk about their mental health out of malevolence or anything like that. It just didn’t feel like it was part of their world - it was something other people had. But in understanding that one in four of us has suffered from a mental health issue this year, you come to realise that, whether it’s the sufferer or their spouse or their mates, we are all involved in this. It affects every one of us.

How do you get men to talk about their mental health?

We did a couple of things. One was to focus not on the sufferer but more on the supporters, highlighting how you could look after a mate. For example, how someone could look for the signals and the signs that indicate something’s up. That’s why we developed Be In Your Mate’s Corner.

We also found the Trojan Horse, I think, as to how to get men to talk about mental health: the concept of brotherhood and the realization that you’ve got to be there for a mate. Blokes hate the thought of not being there for their mates. They hate the thought that they’d be "that guy" – the mate who didn’t step in. And if you could see that your mate was in trouble, then of course you would step in. Every man we talked to really connected with that.

What’s on the cards for our work with Time to Change in 2018?

It’s been great to work with Time to Change this year - we’ve only just started though. We’re into the next phase now so let’s continue to break down that stigma. It’s all about understanding – understanding does genuinely saves lives. 


Take a look at our debut film for Time to Change, Be In Your Mate's Corner, here.

See more of our work for Time to Change by checking out Listen Don't Judge here.