Supporting men’s mental health at West Lothian College
The Man Cave has been created as a safe space for men to talk about mental health at West Lothian College.
By creating safe spaces through weekly in-person and online sessions, The Man Cave breaks down the stigmas, both public and private, and educates men in the signs of mental health struggles while challenging attendees to “Bro-Up”.
The idea behind the “Bro-Up” phrase is to dismantle the societal notion of “Manning up” and having to be a strong, stoic figure. Founders Thomas and Matt believe that this idea has been fundamental in creating a stigma around men talking about their mental health.
By being a “Bro”, they are tasking men to reach out and speak to their friends if they are in need and, probably more importantly, if they can see a friend is struggling.
The group is the brainchild of Thomas Barlow, a full-time lecturer in Electrical Engineering and Matt Farnham, a lecturer who splits his time with Student Support at West Lothian College.
Thomas felt compelled to get something going after a student had attempted suicide: “Hearing the student talk about what he was feeling, how isolated he felt, I realised I was in a position to help. I had thought before that my students would be open enough to talk about these things. What I realised at that moment was that men don’t open up to each other and we need to change that.
“We hope that the Man Cave can get men to talk more openly about their own mental health or at least identify if a friend is struggling and offer support.”
Co-Founder Matt Farnham believes that the rise of “man-up”, a phrase he confesses he had used in his own life, was a symptom of a broader problem:
“I’ve spent nearly a decade working with male students who are afraid to show emotions. They are scared to say ‘I need help’ or ‘I’m struggling’ and as a society, we must make it ok for men to ask for help. The Man Cave is working with men of all ages to get men talking about their mental health.”
By challenging the stigma and bringing mental health out of the closet, The Man Cave is working to prevent people from feeling isolated when they are at their lowest ebb. They are achieving this with open conversations by bringing in guest speakers and working on toolkits to help people spot the signs of someone struggling.
The Man Cave currently runs two online drop in sessions a week via Microsoft Teams, Monday 12-1pm and Thursday 5-6pm, where students can speak with trained staff, guest speakers and engage in workshops.
They are present on Facebook, Instagram and Twitter with regular updates and engaging and thought-provoking content. The can be found @themancave_WLC (Twitter), TheManCaveWLC (Facebook) or @the_man_cave_wlc (Instagram).
Students who have engaged have returned and spoken highly of the service and what Matt and Thomas are doing. Many are now working to recruit friends and colleagues who they believe would benefit from the service.
The Man Cave wants to thank West Lothian College and particularly Principal Jackie Galbraith for her support as they start their journey towards helping create a more open environment for men to talk about their mental health.