An informal peer support group that helps men to cope with mental health issues says that have seen an increased demand for their services since lockdown.

The Martin Gallier Project in New Ferry set up 'Martin’s Man Cave' in 2019 with funding from People’s Health Trust using money raised by Health Lottery North West commencing in early 2020.

The project was founded by Martin’s daughter in his memory, after he took his own life. It was initially established to break down the stigma often surrounding mental health and thoughts of suicide in a safe, accessible, non-clinical environment.

Leader of the Man Cave, Gary Bateman, wasn’t surprised by the increase in demand for the service following lockdown measures being implemented.

He said, “The main contributing factors that we come across are financial concerns or hardship, relationship breakdowns, social isolation, and abuse of alcohol or drugs. The impact of Covid-19 and the lockdown seems to be that more and more of the men in our community and across the country are struggling with one or more of these areas."

“We have really had to ramp up the service to support them in the best way we can under the circumstances.

Wirral Globe:

"We’ve used the time to make lots of plans for the future and we can’t wait to get back out on the water for the signature Man Cave narrow boat outings.”

The Wirral Intelligence Service reported that in 2019, 77% of local suicides were male. When accompanied with the fact that men are three times more likely than women to take their own lives, it was clear that action was, and still is, required.

Now that Covid-19 has prevented Martin’s Man Cave members from meeting physically, their ordinary Monday night get together involving darts, table football and games consoles has had to move online.

The weekly sporting activity became an online quiz and their ethos changed from “doors open, kettles on” to “call us for a virtual brew”. Most importantly, the Man Cave is still standing strong, providing a beacon of hope for those affected by social isolation and poor mental health.

The benefit of this project is clear when talking to its members.

One member and ‘Man Caver’, Lee said: “During lockdown I have been shielding, meaning I’ve been unable to leave home at all due to being vulnerable. Knowing that my fellow man cavers were only a message away saved me from feeling isolated.

“It’s somewhere I know where I can go and be understood, accepted and reassured. Even though it was only a virtual place during this tough time, being able to see a friendly face during our video chats was a real refresher in the scary world I was facing.”

John Hume, CEO of People’s Heath Trust said: “Spaces for men to open up and build supportive social connections are critical if we are to break down the stigma surrounding men’s health, their everyday challenges, as well as broader issues such as isolation, male suicide and the disproportionate impact of Covid-19.

"The Man Cave does this in a way which works for the men who take part, and the impact of their work is truly vital.”

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