Rob Barnett: Mankind Support Group
“Men’s biggest problem is we’ve been socialised to believe we can deal with everything ourselves.”
This is the astute observation of 55-year-old Tim Cruickshank, who runs the Mankind peer support group in his role as a volunteer for Sheffield Mind.
The group provides informal support and advice, and a warm and welcoming space for men to meet and chat.
It meets on Wednesday afternoons from 2pm-4pm at the Wellbeing Centre on Sharrow Lane. It’s free with no need to reserve a place.
Between five and ten men normally attend. They are encouraged to discuss things going on in their lives, recognising that some will want to say more than others.
With a hot drink in hand, the participants sit in a circle and take turns to share. For guidance there is a ground rules sheet that also contains prompts, like ‘what have you been up to?’, to get people talking.
Tim says: “We normally find somebody who needs more help than others and spend time talking through things with him.
“You’re socialised to believe that if you show emotions, you’re weak.
“But through coming along, sharing and opening up men feel stronger.”
As the weeks go by, support for one another grows. Recently one of the younger group members shared that he wanted to do some DIY jobs at home but didn’t have any tools. One of the older members responded by saying that he had some tools that he no longer used and the younger man was welcome to them.
Tim’s motivation for running the group is in part from his own experiences. When his marriage of 23 years ended, he suffered mental health problems.
Having gone through those tough times, he worked for Sheffield Mind as a paid staff member.
Now acting as a carer for his new partner’s disabled children, he volunteers for Mind instead.
Tim moved to Sheffield from London in 1983. He initially became a youth worker before joining the Probation Service.
Summing up his reasons for running the Mankind group, he said: “I was qualified and experienced and I was struggling.
“My message is that you’re not alone and not wrong to share.”
Asked for success stories, Tim replies: “The success stories are the people who come to the group.
“Some have come to the door but not made it through. Then they come along.
“It’s somewhere that men can understand themselves. If you keep everything hidden it stays inside, festers and grows.”