Bristol men’s ‘mental fitness’ group users rise during lockdown

By Osob Elmi
BBC News

  • Published
Talk Club Zoom meetingImage source, Talk Club
Image caption,
Hundreds of men have joined the online mental health sessions

Hundreds of men have joined 'mental fitness' groups since the UK went into lockdown.

Talk Club is a group where men help each other and since restrictions were imposed sessions have moved online.

Membership has risen from about 1,000 to 1,300 with discussions including anxiety, family and money concerns related to the coronavirus pandemic.

The network was founded in Bristol by six friends affected by poor mental health or suicide.

Talk Club, which promises "no therapists, no couches and no judgement", was launched in April 2019 and now has about 35 groups across the UK and some in Australia and the US.

Of the 1,300 members nationally, 274 are in Bristol.

Ben Akers, 44, who is a film director and the co-founder of the organisation set up Talk Club after losing a childhood friend to suicide in 2014.

He said the groups have grown during the lockdown - with sessions now on Zoom - as members have discussed increased anxiety, money and family worries due to the coronavirus pandemic.

'Talking about thoughts'

He said: "I created a positive documentary dedicated to my childhood friend and had the thought of creating a mental fitness group to encourage men to talk.

"Like going to the gym to stay physically fit, this concept focuses on mental fitness by talking about your thoughts."

The group initially started on Facebook and soon expanded to setting up meetings at Bristol Beer Factory.

Steve, from Bristol, who went to his first session in January 2020 said: "I always suffered with some sort of depression and didn't want to bother anyone or think anyone would listen so I never said anything.

"When I went to that first session, I was overcome with emotion and left feeling on top of the world.

"The concept of mental fitness has helped me see things from a different perspective because I can say I'm feeling mentally unfit just like physical fitness."

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