Let’s talk about Men’s Mental Health

By Anita Jaynes on 15 May, 2019

Swindon businesses are getting behind a new campaign to raise awareness of men’s mental health. 

Alex Pollock (known as Social Polly) approached The Business Exchange to see if we would do our bit for the cause. In our June/July magazine we’ve donated two pages of content to support it – look out for it when it lands on 1st June.

We met Social Polly of SocMedSup to coincide with Mental Health Awareness week (13-19 May 2019) to find out more about the movement.

How did the campaign begin?

It originally started in the late summer of 2018, in response to a concern from Public Health around men’s mental health, and the unfortunate statistic associated to suicide; nationally it’s the biggest killer of men under the age of 45 in the UK.

Generally speaking, 75% of suicides each year are men, but more of a concern is most of the men who take their own life have never reached out for support. There’s still much of a stigma around men asking for help, and the discussion around the topic too. 

Public Health Swindon wanted to tackle the problem locally. They felt the best way to activate this would be to put it to the local community. Through a series of questionnaires and face-to-face focus groups, local men and women were spoken to about their perceptions of men’s mental health, what their suggestions were for reducing the stigma and generating further awareness of the service available locally and nationally.

The direct feedback from men was a desire to see a change in culture, with one attendee even speaking about wanting to see masculinity redefined, and the notion of ‘being a man’ more aligned to supporting people.

The focus groups generated a number of campaign themes, which were all put to a public vote earlier this year. The leading campaign tagline was confirmed as “How are you?… but, how are you really?” – and the campaign’s marketing activation is being shaped around this output.

How did you get involved?

Through a mutual contact, I was introduced to Charlie Paradise, a local public health co-ordinator. Charlie invited me to attend the focus group sessions to see if I could add some value. As a young male business owner, everyday has the opportunity to throw elements of stress and adversity, and over the last couple of years, I’ve been more conscious about ensuring I take care of my mental wellbeing as well as my physical self.

Having attended the focus groups and hearing stories first-hand related to mental wellbeing, I was inspired to see what else I could do to support. Since then, Charlie and I have been putting in as many voluntary hours as possible and calling in favours to help bring the campaign and brand to life.

Who’s supporting the campaign so far?

We’re truly blessed to have been supported by the local community, as well as many corporate businesses. Create Studios have been instrumental in bringing the design messaging to life, and we’ve called in favours from Swindon businesses such as ESP Colour and Acorn Press for the print side of things. 

My team at SocMedSup.com have kindly donated some personal time for developing the branding, and have also created a website which highlights a number of services offered locally and nationally that directly support the issue.

The campaign’s activation is being supported by a number of large local organisations such as GLL (leisure centres), Thames Water, the Wyvern Theatre and New College, who have not only adopted the marketing, but have worked with Public Health Swindon to upskill their staff around healthy conversational skills on the topic.

Adding to this is a number of independent consumer-facing business – like menswear stores, barbershops, gyms, coffee shops. We’ve now got over 50 establishments helping to spread the good word. 

Tell us about the poster campaign 

With the campaign being about promoting basic conversations to establish how a friend, family member or colleague is really feeling, we were conscious that those featured in the poster could literally be anyone. Mental illness has no physical signs, so you’d be unaware as to whether one of the guys featured in the poster may well be currently receiving support for a problem. 

We also felt that the messaging should be targeted at places where men in the community might go on a regular basis or have direct connections too. So, we’ve included a barber, a fireman, a couple of business owners, those connected to the arts community, and they’re all Swindon-based. Everyone who’s involved themselves in the campaign has been so passionate about what we’re trying to deliver, and they want to support the local community in the best way they can. We’re grateful for the support! 


Visit the Men’s Mental Health Swindon website at: mmhswindon.co.uk 

The website shares links to CALM, providing national support for men struggling with mental health problems, the Samaritans, who support people at a time of crisis 365/34/7, as well as many other local charities helping mental wellbeing.

Follow the Mental Health Awareness Week hashtag on social media #MentalHealthAwarenessWeek and join in the conversation.