“They understood without prying, did not judge and did not seek to. It wasn’t counselling, but a connection with men from every type of background” — Richard Holland, Vice President of the National Association of Round Tables
Experts in men’s mental health are beginning to discover that the kinds of support and therapy that work for women, do not always work for men. They are also finding that the often knee-jerk assumption that “men don’t talk” is inaccurate — closer to the truth is that men need the right environment in which to talk. This can mean all-male spaces in which men feel safe to be themselves and communicate in ways that work for them.
Here Richard Holland, Vice President of the National Association of Round Tables Great Britain and Ireland, an all-male voluntary organisation that has been supporting men for 90 years, speeks about his own battle following the breakdown of his marriage and how the uniquely male support of his tight network of friends from Round Table was able to bring him back to himself.
“Over my many happy years in Round Table and most recently being on the road meeting members as National Vice President, I’ve learnt something special. It’s a fact about Round Table that I know to be true because I have had personal experience of it. And this fact may not directly speak to you but I know that it will speak to someone you know.
“What is it I learnt? That Round Table saved my life, when I was at the lowest point of my life. When I was at rock bottom, the Round Table community was there for me. And this is my story.
“A couple of years ago, I went through a pretty horrible separation from my ex-wife which ended in us getting divorced. It left me devastated.
“I suffered terribly. And it took an overwhelming hold on my wellbeing. For the first time in my life, I felt vulnerable. For the first time in my life, I was scared for what the future held for me and for my children. For the first time in my life, I felt totally alone in the world.
“I took on habits to cope. Late night partying with people I didn’t know, drinking too much and an outlook on the world that was negative and bleak.
“In short, I will share with you how deep it went – without Round Table I would not be here today.
“But Table was there. The spirit, the fun, the opportunities, a reason to be involved in life again; it all lifted me. But it was something else more human and more touching that really helped. Others, that understood without prying, did not judge and did not seek to. It wasn’t counselling, but a connection with men from every type of background. I felt comfortable with Tablers, less scared, more confident. Through Table, I got my life back.”
As men, we too often think of ourselves as strong and in control of our emotions. Maybe a sense of “big boys don’t cry” keep our emotions under lock and key. When we feel hopeless or overwhelmed by despair we often deny it, even to ourselves. Yet depression is much more common than many first expect. It is estimated that 1 in 6 people in this last week experienced a common mental health problem.
And with an average of 12 men a day taking their own lives and suicide the biggest killer of men under 45, Round Table are proud to partner with the Men and Boy’s Coalition to directly draw attention to men’s issues and help more men like Richard.
Richard said: “Now I look back and my life is wonderful. My children are beautiful and I am in love again – my heart and mind repaired.
“Round Table saved my life, as I know it has done for many other members of our incredible organisation. We not only help lift others through incredible fundraising activities, but we help lift ourselves – through fun, fellowship and community work. Some men don’t need help in the same way as I did, but I believe every man needs opportunity and Round Table gives young men so much. Men are beginning to break down their traditional barriers of a stiff upper lip and leading this change is the greatest young man’s club in the world – Round Table.”