James Evans MS held a debate in the Senedd this week to recognise International Men’s Day.

The debate was to highlight the importance of recognising and addressing the physical and mental health challenges that face men.   

International Men’s Day is taking place today (Sunday, November 19) with around 600 organisations participating yearly.

During a Senedd session this week, the Brecon and Radnorshire MS spoke about the difficulties faced by men and their reluctance to open up and discuss mental health concerns.

He made particular reference to men in rural areas and those in the farming profession - highlighting how the job can be "one of the most rewarding professions" but also "one of the loneliest".

Mr Evans also highlighted the Men's Sheds movement - a charity with the aim of improving the health and well-being of their members by giving them a safe place to make friends, share meaningful activities, talk, and access health information and resources.

Mr Evans said: "Men's Shed provide a space so men can come together to work on projects, learn new skills and simply enjoy each other's company.

"One of the key benefits of the Men's Shed movement is it gives men that sense of purpose, that sense of belonging again, by working on those projects together. It's a lovely thing to have that sense of accomplishment and pride, and when many people finish their working life, as well, they're not quite sure what to do, and a Men's Shed gives you that opportunity to go there and do that. But it also encourages men to open up about their feelings as well."

Last year, the Samaritans highlighted that men in rural areas are less likely to seek mental health support and that in the Western world, men die by suicide are three to four times more often than women, with a greater frequency among those over the age of 65.

Speaking after this week's Senedd session, Mr Evans said: “Men’s mental health is rarely talked about and I welcome this focus on men’s health and wellbeing.  In my role as Shadow Mental Health Minister, we desperately need to address the high suicide rates amongst men.  In 2020, 73 per centof suicide deaths in the UK were men.  I am concerned with the high levels of uncertainty and pressures in the farming sector at the moment.  

"Many men tell me ‘I have learnt to deal with it’ or ‘I don’t wish to be a burden’.  To those people, I will always say seek help, turn to a friend, a colleague, a local charity.  There is help out there but we have to break down the stigma that it is OK to seek help. 

"We have amazing charities in our area that focus on male mental health, one of which is Men's Sheds. I have been fortunate to visit a few Sheds now and they are great forums for men to get together, have a brew and a chat and break down the barriers for men to seek help and support.  Many ‘shedders’ have told me how beneficial these groups have been in helping mental health and that their lives have been turned around.  This movement started in Australia but is growing from strength to strength. A report saying 1 in 8 men experience symptoms for mental health problems, groups like Mens Shed along with NHS provision is vitally important."

For more information about Men's Sheds in Wales please visit: https://www.mensshedscymru.co.uk/

Useful resources:

CALM (Campaign Against Living Miserably): https://www.thecalmzone.net/