Men talking about mental health

Two Pints Deep: London’s men advocating for mental health awareness

Suicide is the biggest killer of men under the age of 50 in the UK.

Never had this statistic felt more biting than when I sat across from the floppy-haired, bright-eyed 22-year old in a cafe in north London.

Two years ago Oliver Newnham made an attempt on his life that resulted in a month-long stay in ICU. The student from Hampshire spent three weeks in a coma. 

He said: “I just wanted to keep having a good time until I stopped having a good time and then I was going to kill myself.

“Suicidal people don’t want to die – they just don’t want to live.”

Whilst Oliver did reach out for help prior to this incident, he felt dismissed by healthcare professionals.

He explained that he found it difficult to speak about his symptoms in a way in which he felt understood.

“I was suicidal, I was disassociating, and every time I did go to the GP I was brushed aside.

“This pattern led me to internalising that I didn’t think I could get better.”

Oliver said that it was only after this near fatal attempt that he was taken seriously by service providers.

Since then, Oliver has recovered: excelling in his degree programme and advocating for open conversations about mental health.

But others are not as fortunate.

Men make up 75% of deaths by suicide, and last year the UK received a record five million referrals for mental health services, a statistic which has risen steadily since the Covid-19 pandemic.

But why are suicide rates for men so high in comparison to women?

And how can we tackle these staggering statistics?

I turned to the founder of men’s mental health charity Two Pints Deep in hopes of understanding.

A post about talking to your friends from Two Pints Deep on X

Luke Barrow formed Two Pints Deep after his own mental health struggles following the passing of his mother.

After dealing with a long period of depression, he finally opened up about his struggles with a group of friends at a house party.

Barrow said: “All it takes is one person to start talking about their stuff and it opens gates for everyone else. 

“What was my avenue in? My avenue in was being two pints deep.”

Barrow subsequently formed Two Pints Deep – a community that provides a safe, non-judgemental space for people to talk about their mental health.

Barrow said: “The answers we currently have to mental health are not relatable to a lot of men in this country.

“Our charity encourages men to learn about being vulnerable within places that they already feel comfortable, such as the pub or the football.”

The founder explained that the charity aims to support the bottom 50% of mental health sufferers: those who don’t know how to speak about their mental health issues.

People like Oliver, who didn’t believe he could get any better. 

Two Pints Deep runs an anonymous messaging platform which Barrow responds to personally, offering support and signposting people to services in their area.

In London and Manchester, the charity coordinates run clubs aptly titled Two Miles Deep.

Whilst the sessions centre around running, the real purpose of these runs is to spark conversation between participants.

Barrow said: “We give our participants the tools to be able to initiate a human connection through a conversation.”

One member of the community, Grant Mills, discussed the opportunities for conversation at the bi-weekly events.

Mills said: “You can come along to Two Miles Deep, run and talk about football or other pastimes, but also know nobody else will judge you if you decide you want to open up about something impacting your mental health.

“I have learnt through my time at Two Miles Deep that being able to talk is actually a strength.”

Talking about mental health openly is essential if we’re going to tackle the issue.

And perhaps society hasn’t equipped individuals, particularly men, with the language or opportunities to articulate their experiences.

A graph showing the number of adults accessing mental health services from July 2023-2024

The latest data from NHS England shows that the number of adults accessing community mental health services is on the rise.

And whilst the increase of individuals reaching out for support indicates an encouraging increase in the awareness of mental health conditions, it also reflects an alarming reality.

The UK’s mental health is in crisis.

And unless we talk about it, the numbers will not improve. 

You can check out Two Pints Deep on Instagram.

Featured image credit: Photo by Mental Health America (MHA) via Pexels

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