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​Men’s health project tackling high rates of depression and isolation across Hampshire and Kent

A MEN’S health project is attempting to address increased rates of depression and loneliness among males living in Hampshire and Kent, plus areas of mainland Europe.

The initiative, known as Step by Step (SBS), hopes to improve the mental and physical health of men at a high-risk of social isolation by engaging with others in workshops hosted in specially-built Men’s Sheds.

Together with Hampshire and Kent County Councils, SBS has been launched by the University of Chichester, working alongside European healthcare and community organisations.

The Sheds are based on a redeveloped delivery model of the internationally-recognised ‘Men in Sheds’ concept – community spaces where participants learn new skills and engage in activities used in the labour market – to improve their mental and physical health and wellbeing.

University of Chichester researcher Andy Wood, who specialises in health and wellbeing research, is leading the evaluation of the project, which will conclude in 2021. He said: “A recent European Commission report found that men account for 77 per cent of all suicides in the EU, and that 50 per cent of premature male deaths are avoidable.

“Step by Step will make a real difference to men, whether socially-isolated or suffering poor mental or physical health. It will facilitate the learning of practical and cognitive-based skills, as employability is also a key outcome of the project.”

As many as 94 new Sheds are being introduced across the two regions – as well as in areas of France, Belgium and The Netherlands – all adopting the new model to train participants as health and employment champions in order to support one another through holistic coaching.

The project, overseen by the Health and Europe Centre, aims to engage 6,000 men across its four-year lifecycle, with 600 of them going on to gain employment.

Men account for 77 per cent of all suicides in the EU, according to the European Commission

So far, the evaluation of the project is at the Baseline stage, with attendees already reporting benefits. One participant said that he felt much happier as it gives both he and his wife time away from each other, enhancing their relationship. He added: “I think it helps to not have a gap in the day. All the time I’m busy, it’s good. My brain and body are focused on something.”

The SBS project is funded by the EU’s Interreg social innovation fund to address health concerns among men in the United Kingdom, France, Belgium and the Netherlands.

The initiative is worth nearly €4million, with more than €2.5million coming from the European Regional Development Fund’s Interreg 2Seas programme and the rest match-funded by the organisations.

For more about the Step by Step project, including the work of academics at the University of Chichester, go to www.chi.ac.uk/chichester-institute-sport/institute-sport-research/step-step.

Alternatively email the University team at sbsproject@chi.ac.uk or follow @SBS_Project_Chi for latest updates about the project’s evaluation.