New poetry workshops for men aim to combat the stigma around men’s mental health

Poetry Hooligans is a new event from Mandem Meetup that encourages blokes to open up about their feelings.

By Kelly Bishop | 14 February 2023

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A Manchester mental health group has launched poetry workshops to encourage men to use creativity to talk about their struggles. Mandem Meetup hosts weekly judgement-free talking circles at Great Northern Warehouse and it has now branched out into poetry sessions for 2023, encouraging blokes to find their inner William Wordsworth, Philip Larkin or John Cooper Clarke.

Men’s mental health is being discussed more and more these days, and rightly so. Worrying figures show that men are more likely to commit suicide than women and less likely to seek help for their mental health concerns. In its figures for 2021, mental health charity Samaritan’s reported that the male suicide rate was 15.8 per 100,000 people compared to a female suicide rate of 5.5 per 100,000. Males aged 50-54 were found to have the highest suicide rate (22.5 per 100,000) and there was a significant increase in suicides in the North West in 2021. 

This group encourages men to talk about their feelings. Image: Mandem Meetup

While men have historically been less willing to talk about their feelings than women are, the way they deal with their mental health struggles is slowly improving. In September 2019 Mind released figures taken from a survey of 2,000 men called Get It Off Your Chest, comparing the 2019 results to those of the exact same survey done in 2009. It reported that although two in five men regularly feel worried or low, they are now three times more likely to seek help from a therapist and much more likely to visit a GP than they were in 2009. 

Talking is a simple way to lighten your mental load and get some worries off your chest but channeling your thoughts into creative pursuits like poetry can also be therapeutic. Poetry has been shown in studies to reduce feelings of worry, sadness and fear.

So it can only be a good thing that these poetry workshops aimed at men have launched in Manchester City centre. Led by Manchester-based rapper and social justice activist, Magic EKJ, Poetic Hooligans is a series of workshops which encourage men to talk about their struggles and express themselves through creativity. The monthly workshops “welcome men of all creative abilities to write poems, songs, and chants” about their experiences as men.

As well as poetry workshops, Mandem Meetup organises talking circles, walks and more. Image: Mandem Meetup

But if poetry and music aren’t the way you want to explore your mental health worries, Mandem Meetup also hosts talking circles which aim to provide judgement-free spaces across the city for anyone who identifies as male to open up and share what’s going on in their lives. It’s a simple, relaxed affair, with men getting together to have a brew and share how they’re feeling.

Ben Rutter, Operations Director at Mandem Meetup, said: “As a nation, we’ve come a long way in understanding and supporting mental health, yet men are still treated differently.

“They’re expected to act tough and refrain from opening up to the people close to them, which we completely disagree with. We care about our fellow brothers, our mandem, we want them to know that there’s always a safe space for them to share their feelings. Mental health is just as important as physical health, and we want to raise awareness for this across Greater Manchester.”

Mark Schofield, Centre Director of Great Northern Warehouse, said: “Mandem Meetup embodies our inclusive and supportive community at Great Northern Warehouse. We’re proud of the work they’re doing for mental health and feel confident that they will make a real difference throughout Greater Manchester.”

The next Poetic Hooligans workshop is on 17 February at 7pm at The Village Hall on Deansgate Mews in the Great Northern. The Mandem Meetup Deansgate Talking Circle is hosted every second Tuesday from 6pm at the same location and the group hosts walks and other events too.  

Follow Mandem Meetup on socials to stay up to date. It’s good to talk.