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Community Theatre Helping Men in Stoke Open up About Mental Health

Category: community, Mental Health, Arts Council England, Community Engagement, Community Focused, menshealth, Movember

Mental Health.

In the UK, men are three times as likely to die by suicide than women* and the highest suicide rate is among men aged 45-49*.  In response to these statistics, a ground-breaking community theatre group in Stoke-on-Trent funded by Arts Council England has been getting men to talk about mental health.

Tackling the links between masculinity, depression and suicide head on, and using storytelling and theatre to question why men don’t ask for help, Restoke’s MAN UP was created in 2018. Over 12 months, a group of local men were encouraged to share stories and examine how identity, sexuality, and society can impact thoughts and feelings, and what can happen when men do – and don’t – open up. The result? Conversation, friendship and a support network which allowed them to face some of their own demons and craft a performance from personal experiences. Together they performed five shows at Goldenhill Working Men’s Club in Stoke, reaching almost 600 people.

A positive impact

Since 2016, Restoke’s project has been supported by Arts Council with National Lottery funding totalling more than £51,000, and while it began as a way for the group to share their own stories through dance and spoken word, the impact of sharing these stories has gone further. The men taking part saw a difference in their own wellbeing – gaining a sense of place, and a support network where they are not judged. Audience members also experienced a new way to connect with each other and to take what they heard in the Working Men’s Clubs and share this with family and friends who might need advice or support.

Peter Knott, Area Director for Arts Council England, said: “Connecting with the arts in a personal way can be a profound experience and we are pleased to support Restoke through our National Lottery funding,

“Theatre has the power to change the lives of those who create and experience it. MAN UP is a great example of how art and creativity, rooted in real stories told by local people, can have a lasting effect on communities and a positive effect on mental health.”

A healthier future

Building on this work, The National Lottery Community Fund & Thomas Deane Trust is funding a project led by Restoke and men involved in MAN UP, who will be hosting a number of one-off creative events across Stoke-on-Trent, as well as a men's choir, encouraging even more local men to take part in creative activities with a focus on promoting positive mental health.

Restoke’s Artistic Director Paul Rogerson, said: "MAN UP was a timely project - this opportunity for men to take to the dance floor and open up about their personal experiences felt really important and opened up many more conversations and interventions as a result.

“We're really happy that the legacy of this performance now lives on through the Up Men project and we can continue to offer creative opportunities for positive mental health and look at how arts organisations be part of discussions around suicide prevention." 

Click here to find out more.

*Samaritans Suicide Statistics Report 2018

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