WHEN a close friend took his own life in 2019, Eastbourne friends Ian Pickard and Paul Roskilly decided they wanted to do something.
Both had experienced their own metal health issues in the past, realising that for men very often it’s hard to talk about their problems.
Mankind was born.
It started just before the first Lockdown and only one (or two) meetings were held face to face before they transferred to Zoom.
Ian and Paul haven’t looked back.
Ian said: “Every Wednesday we have a meeting so that people can talk and be listened to.
“It’s a completely non-pressure environment, and if people want to stay quiet then they can.
“You can do exactly what you want. Our aim is to help people, and for many the hardest thing is to accept you have a problem.
“It may be anxiety, depression, stress, alcohol, sexuality, something that happened when you were a child, it could be family issues.
“We are here to help. We never judge.”
Meetings are held every Wednesday. Some are on Zoom, others at The Old Bank Wellbeing Trust, the former NatWest in Hampden Park.
Some people prefer to meet in person, others like to be on Zoom, where you can remain anonymous.
Ian said: “You can join a meeting but you don’t have to say a word if you don’t want to. You do what you feel happy doing.
“On average we have between 12 and 20 people per session.
“It’s about opening up about how you feel. We listen, talk about coping strategies and also pay for counselling if that is what’s needed.
“And it’s not just people from Eastbourne. Because of being online, we have people from all over the country, and since we started we have helped 89 people.
“The Old Bank Wellbeing Trust has been great and at present six of our guys are going there for help and support.”
Ian said Lockdown was inevitably difficult for many people’s mental health.
“Suddenly, many of us had lost our escape, going to work, meeting a friend or going down the pub.
“It can be very lonely if you are suffering from anxiety or depression. What we provide is safe, friendly and relaxed.
“Many of our clients were typically be late 40s to mid 50s but we have seen younger people lately, some university age.
“We also run a WhatsApp group where people can post messages if they are feeling low. This results in other group members replying and often offering reassuring words.
“I know that without our help, some people would not be here now, and that is why what we do is so important.
“And that is also why we want to do more. We are currently looking at opening a light industrial unit in Eastbourne. It will be a coffee shop, where people can come to chat, and also a woodworking shop where people can do meaningful work. It will be self-funding, our guys will make items for sale.”
Ian and Paul want to emphasise what they do is 100 per cent confidential, and you can be anonymous if you want to. One person only revealed his identity after six weeks of meetings.
Ian said: “We go round the room, asking people to pitch in, but only if they want to, about how they are coping, and we also look forward to the next seven days as well.
“If people say they are a 10, then that is great, if they are a 1 then they are absolutely struggling. Five and above is OK.
“There is no charge for coming to us, and we like to think there are suitable options for everyone.
“We never believed it would be so successful, we really do look after each other.”
The group needs to fundraise and recently the renowned Pevensey Plungers did a Saturday morning dip to boost funds.
To contact Mankind, go to Mankind Support Group – Mental Health Help for Men (mankindcic.co.uk)