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New initiative to address high rates of isolation and depression among men

Step by Step

 

A PROJECT addressing increased rates of depression and loneliness among men in the UK and Europe has been launched by the University of Chichester alongside government and healthcare organisations.

The initiative, known as Step by Step (SBS), will look to improve the mental and physical health of men at high risk of social isolation through engaging with others facing similar situations in specially-built sheds and workshops. It follows a recent European Commission report which 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.

Partner organisations ​have worked across the last 18 months to develop a new model for the internationally-recognised ‘Men in Sheds’ concept – community spaces where men meet to learn new skills and engage in activities used in the labour market – to improve their mental and physical health and wellbeing. As many as 94 new Sheds will be built in the UK and Europe.

The cross-border project, led by the Health and Europe Centre, 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. It is being delivered in the UK by Hampshire and Kent county councils and evaluated by academics from the University of Chichester.

Dr Ruth Lowry, a Reader in the Psychology of Active Living from the University’s Institute of Sport, is leading the evaluation of the project, which will conclude in 2021.

She said: “Step by Step will make a real difference to men, whether socially-isolated or suffering poor mental or physical health. The approaches the project will develop, through the workshops – including social engagement, skills development and confidence-building – will not only benefit them, but also the wider community.”

Andy Wood, who specialises in health and wellbeing research, is working with Dr Lowry to assess the impact of workshops and community spaces on participants’ mental and physical health, as well as their wellbeing, community engagement, and employability. He said: “We believe the SBS model will be highly transferable, in this country and beyond, and will empower individuals to re-engage with society and employment.”

The project aims to engage 6,000 men across its four-year lifecycle, with 600 of them going on to gain employment, saving public services more than €7million. 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.

Participants will be trained as health and employment champions for this new approach, as well as in soft skills, interviewing and empowerment. Creative uses of technology will also be developed, to engage with men who prefer not to talk directly about health or unemployment, but may open up in the context of doing something practical or competitive.

For more about the Step by Step project, including the work of academics at the University of Chichester, go to www.chi.ac.uk/sbs. Alternatively email the University team at sbsproject@chi.ac.uk or read latest updates on their Twitter feed at twitter.com/SBS_project_Chi