For anyone struggling with their mental health, the thought of opening up and talking about it can be daunting – so much so that many people, particularly men, simply don’t.
This reluctance to speak out means that those who are suffering can end up feeling alone, lost and unsure of where to go or what to do next.
But Craig Spillane is hoping to change that. He set up a Facebook page – Men Unite – after a couple of his pals admitted to feeling suicidal. Within days it spread and just over a month after launching it has almost 4,000 members – all men – who post about their problems and issues while others offer advice or just a friendly ear.
Craig Spillane (on the end right) with his dad and brother. Credit: Craig Spillane/LADbible
Speaking to LADbible, Craig said: “I just came up with the idea one day while I was sat on the toilet – I’ve got a couple of close pals that had confided in me that they felt suicidal and one in particular really hit home, because I could see that he was like a younger version of me.
“I was in his position 20 years ago – I had a cocaine addiction, I was lying to my missus about money… and he was doing the same.
“It spiralled from there; it got me thinking deeper. A lot of the problems men face come from the fact that they won’t talk about their feelings so I created this group, just as a platform for men to speak.”
With the help of his mate Kian Feiza-Anaraki, the group was set up and very quickly gained followers.
“At first I thought I’d maybe get 20 or 30 people in there,” Craig tells LADbible. “But in the first day I ended up with 110 and I thought, ‘Hang on, there’s something in this.’ People began sharing their experiences and their stories.
“We had people posting about their depression, suffering with anxiety, feeling suicidal, people who had been abused as children.
“People are putting their stories out there and other people are reading them, who have maybe been in that situation themselves, and they able to give them advice. For other people it’s just a chance for them to get it off their chest and to talk about whatever is bothering them.”
As well as speaking and offering each other support online, the men have taken their new friendships offline, too. Just two weeks after starting the group, a meet-up was arranged with an open invite to anyone in the group.
Almost 50 members of the group met up for a football match recently. Credit: Craig Spillane/LADbible
“We decided to put on a football match,” Craig said. “I know football can be divisive but we wanted to use it to bring people together. We put out an invite and I was expecting to get maybe 10 or 15 people turning up; I thought we could put on a little five or seven-a-side, but 47 people turned.
“Others who don’t like football have arranged fishing events – we’ve had a group of 30 men go on a run and 20 meet up to go on a bike ride.
“We’ve got one man who has autism and he’d not left the house for nine months; he thought he had no friends, but he came out last week to the football meet up and he’s had people going ’round to his house for tea. It’s heart-warming.”
Going forward, Craig hopes that the group will continue to grow, and the message will continue to spread, as well as organising more events where the men can meet up in real life.
Craig Spillane and his partner Carrie. Credit: LADbible
In the longer term he’s hoping to get Men Unite registered as a community interest company, and is currently crowd-funding to collect a bit of cash to build a proper HQ where men can pop in for a coffee and a chat.
Craig also wants to start a podcast, where they chat about the issues that men face.
“We did a podcast for a local group recently,” he said. “I think it’s a really good platform to help spread our message and help remove some of the stigma.”
Keep up the good work, LADs.
UOKM8? is a campaign by LADbible, featuring films and stories that provide advice and inspiration on mental health. Explore more here and don’t suffer in silence.
Featured Image Credit: Craig Spillane/LADbible