Led by Feel Good Factor, we took part in a ground-breaking project: Manbassadors. It reached out to isolated men to support their mental health through bite sized support and weekly groups, tackling the high rates of male suicide and prevalent issue of high social isolation in East Leeds.
The project took an innovative approach through collaborating with local businesses and people to deliver its message. Over twenty local businesses took part, ranging from gyms and chemists to barbers, bookies and corner shops. These organisations proudly became Manbassadors, and championing information and resources from Leeds charities. By engaging with popular businesses in East Leeds the project ensured that the correct information was going to the right audience and really getting to the heart of our communities. It’s simple; when a Manbassador business sees a customer who could be isolated or lonely, or at risk of this, they were given a Manbassador leaflet. This contained vouchers, quizzes, information and information about low-cost local activities. It signposted information to get the most out of life in East Leeds and to let our local men know that there is support available.
Barber Richard, fish fryer Steve, grocer Sunny, trainer Hayley and pharmacists Balwinder and Jayne were among the first business owners to be trained to identify signs of isolation and potential self-harm or suicide in their customers and to signpost them to help from various organisations.
In an increasingly digital world, many may feel left behind. It’s vital that we are still reaching out to those who find printed information and a phone call more familiar, comfortable and accessible. Leaflets are just one great example of how we can do this.
To celebrate this pioneering community project Poem Portraits were created, capturing the community spirit and personal stories of our volunteers. These were showcased in Harehills – we thought there was no better way to celebrate our businesses and the work put into this project than by taking it to our local streets!
Lawrence Glyn, a former staff member of Space2, played a key role in Manbassadors. Lawrence was an Orion/Space2 Mens Engagement Worker, running his ‘Men @ Meanwood’ group, meeting weekly and enjoying cooking, connecting and good conversation. On behalf of Space2 he also managed the Harehills Street Art project, that came as a result of Manbassadors. He became passionately involved in the poetry showcase, seeing the potential of creating art that represented the Manbassador project. He explains, ‘I love talking to people. I have some fantastic conversations with people who were strangers to me. There’s something about asking big questions like ‘what makes life worthwhile for you?’. People really open up’.
It’s this inter-connectedness that’s really at the heart of this project, tackling social isolation and ensuring that those who need help know where to get it. It’s shown the connection people have with their community, those around us and each other, and the willingness we all have to look out for each other when we need it.