Two Fife groups are thinking differently about how to tackle the issue of men’s mental health.
Charity A Veteran’s Best Friend and Pete’s Man Chat Movement are community-led initiatives working to tackle mental health.
The two groups recently announced they will both be offering services from Kirkcaldy’s Linton Lane Centre.
Mental Health Foundation Scotland have called for a transformational approach to mental health to avoid a crisis after the Covid-19 pandemic.
And Courier readers ranked mental health as one of the top two subjects of concern to them in a recent poll.
Man’s best friend
A Veteran’s Best Friend (AVBF) provides support for armed forces veterans.
Founder Mike Cairns was diagnosed with PTSD, a Perfectionist Personality Disorder and was medically discharged from the Royal Marines in December 2020.
His rescue dog Sam’s reaction when he had a breakdown caused him to want to learn more about what dogs can do to improve people’s mental health.
He says: “The day I got back from the doctor and walked into the house, he just knew I wasn’t right.
“He was tilting his head from side to side, giving me paws, it was his way of saying everything is OK.
“That’s when I began to realise the impact dogs can have on a person’s mental health.”
Working with veterans
AVBF work with veterans who have failed to engage with other organisations and services.
They also provide support to dog rehoming centres and want to provide assistance dogs to Armed Forces Veterans using rescue dogs.
‘Dogs are amazing’
Mike adds, pairing dogs with veterans who are struggling is something they are passionate about.
He said: “These dogs will literally be a lifeline for the veterans.
“They will help with the problem of social isolation within the veteran community, give the veteran an excuse to get out of the house, speak to people, and genuinely give them a purpose in life.
“The dogs will be trained to go into shops, restaurants, public transport etc.
“By having a mental health assistance dog, it gives the veterans the opportunity to feel as able as anyone else to go where they please.
“We believe dogs are amazing and can do things for people that no human can, they have a sixth sense.
“The world would be a dark place without them. We are deeply passionate about helping veterans who are struggling too.
“There is still too much stigma around in the world in regard to mental health.”
For Pete Melville, founder of the Pete’s Man Chat Movement, simple approaches work best.
Pete: “I started the movement about a year ago.
“I knew there must be something I could do about the issue of men’s mental health.
“For me it’s very basic – what if it’s just as simple as giving men a place where they can talk about what is on their mind?
‘What can we do to change things?’
“A place to talk about anything and everything.”
Pete’s groups, which have run online during lockdown as well as in different Fife venues when restrictions allowed, are open to anyone.
They offer an open door for men to talk informally to others and share mental health concerns.
He said: “Men need to talk about their problems.
“It’s all about being positive and asking ourselves what can we do to change things or do something about how we feel to move forward.
“We see men feeling like they’re going down a path of feeling down, right the way through to others who have been there and come out the other side of it.”
Pete added: “Everyone has life experience to offer, many don’t want to look like the victim.
“Some men who have come along admit afterwards they didn’t think they would talk and open up, but do.
“There’s no pressure. Even if someone just wants to come along and listen, for them that can be what’s needed.”
A growing number of groups aimed at men are springing up locally. For those who aren’t ready to talk just yet, or who are worried about a friend’s mental health, there’s also lots of information online.