My Mind News talks to Dan Somers at MANUP? to talk about the charity’s work and men talking to other men about mental health.
Introduction to MANUP?
According to the Oxford English Dictionary, the phrase “man up” is defined as a term used when telling someone to be brave or tough enough to deal with a difficult or unpleasant situation. However, in more recent times, it has taken on a more sinister tone, used against (usually) men when their behavior might not suit traditional, stereotypical masculine ‘norms.’
The use (and often the misuse) of the term ‘man up’ inspired Dan Somers to start a mental health charity for men by the same name, albeit incorporating a question mark to denote a subtle difference in meaning.
The organization’s focus and mission, according to its website, is that “the adopted term of MAN UP as we know it needs to be challenged. Don’t just brush yourself down & get on with it.”
MANUP? wants to raise awareness of men’s mental health issues and have them brought out in the open where they can be discussed freely and without taboo or stigma.
In 2019, aware of an increasing issue with regard to men’s mental health, Dan Somers decided to do something about the situation unfolding. However, it took the death of Keith Flint, lead singer of The Prodigy, that spurred Dan into action.
Daniel had previously DJ’d at events with Keith back in the day, and it was only when Daniel heard of his death that he realized how many men’s funerals he’d attended. According to Dan, something needed to change. At this point, Dan set up MANUP? which was originally designed simply to be a one-off event.
On June 23rd, 2019, MANUP? held its first meeting – a meet-up for any man that wanted to attend on a school playing field near Ipswich in Suffolk, UK. Although the attendance at that first meeting fell short of the 1,00 attendees goal, it started the ball rolling on a movement that would soon become much larger in scope.
In February 2020, just before COVID restrictions were imposed, MANUP? wanted to hold another event following positive feedback from the first. However, the first lockdown caused this follow-up meeting to be cancelled. But, in May 2020, with the lockdown in full force, MANUP? held its first online meeting with five men. This was to prove to be the way forward. An example of one of the charity’s online discussions is shown below.
The topic of that first lockdown online chat was ‘life and mental health during lockdown‘. The organization wanted to highlight what each person was doing during that most problematic and unprecedented time. In attendance were a church leader, a photographer, a CEO, and an ex-police officer.
MANUP? continued with its weekly video meetings weekly during lockdowns, and through them and what was being said by the numerous attendees from all walks of life, Dand and his small team started to get messages from people asking for help.
Over the course of the next three years, and despite a global health pandemic (or perhaps, because of it), the organization has grown exponentially, as has the ground that it covers. MANUP? became a charity in July 2021, with an experienced Board of Trustees at the helm assisting Dan, who remains front and center at the organization today.
What does MANUP do?
MANUP? has a highly-resourced website full of videos showing different groups of men discussing mental health issues. These videos are designed to be simple to understand and free to access. The huge range of subjects covered by the videos includes grief, addiction, depression, PTSD, Bipolar disorder, and ADHD, among many others. As Dan himself explains,
“We rarely talk about suicide as a male-focused charity, we do this to try to change minds before something enters someone’s head.”
The format of each video is simple – men talking to each other about their thoughts, experiences, concerns, and worries relating to the subject matter of the video, although their conversations rarely stay totally on track (which is a good thing!).
MANUP? encourages men to talk, either to one another or to seek help or support when they feel they need it rather than shy away from the issue or hide it under the proverbial carpet.
Events – getting people together to talk
The other main focus of MANUP? activities is hosting and attending events, of which there are already several lined up for 2023. You can access full details of each here.
The keynote networking event for this year will be the MANUP? annual conference to be held on May 5th, 2023. Those attending the event will hear from four business leaders to discover how they incorporate the discussion of mental health in the workplace. The event is titled ROI on Mental Health 23.
The aim of the event is to teach attendees tactics and strategies for prioritizing the mental wellbeing of staff and how to maximize the return on investment for their own companies.
As we all know, work plays a vital role in our lives. Working is where we spend most of our time, earn income, and make friends; however, a fulfilling job can also benefit everyone’s mental health. During the discussions on the day, attendees will examine how they maintain employee wellness and mental health and what ‘return on investment’ they feel they achieve.
The objective of the meeting is to show that good mental health and effective management are mutually beneficial, and workplaces with high mental well-being are more productive. MANUP? aims to achieve this objective for everyone attending (which will include business owners, managers, and industry leaders) through the following aims –
- Have an idea of how to manage mental health at work
See what others are doing and what has happened since last year.
Consider how employers can work with others to improve mental health in the workplace.
Gain fresh ideas about promoting mental health at work.
Due to the rising cost of living, MANUP? has requested a donation of £5.50 per ticket to help cover drinks, snacks, and other costs involved in hosting the event. Tickets can be booked via EventBrite.
The event will be held atfrom 1330 -1700.
My Mind News thanks Dan Somers for speaking with us and for focusing the spotlight on the important work done by the whole team at MANUP? We wish them all well.