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How Men’s Space has continued in lockdown

19th November 2020

To celebrate International Men’s Day on Thursday, 19th November, we’re looking at our Men’s Space patient support group.

As they do every Thursday, our Men’s Space members will meet virtually to spend time supporting each other, talking, and sharing experiences.

Learn more about the group, and how it adapted to lockdown, in this piece by Specialist Palliative Care Social Worker, Andy Schwab.

“Men’s Space gives our male outpatients the opportunity to meet like minded people who are in the same situation and feeling the same feelings. There is a chemistry that develops in groups where everybody is able to empathise and have a proper understanding of what each other are going through.

“In 2020, promotion of good mental health, particularly for men, is a higher profile subject than ever before. But, most of the patients who attend Men’s Space grew up in an era where you were expected to ‘Man Up’ and not talk about what is on your mind. The group gives the patients an opportunity to talk and listen to peers without worrying about what people are thinking. They frequently use that opportunity to inspire, advise, comfort and, more often than not, make each other laugh.

“Men’s Space works as a men only group because often older men particularly take their time bonding and opening up. It’s become an established and trusted group and a lot of the patients say they feel safer talking about their feelings and worries there than anywhere else. It helps that everyone is in the same boat and the men can all relate to each other’s experiences and know what sort of things people want to hear in that situation

“The men are on a journey together, and 2020 has been tougher than ever, especially for some of our older patients who are vulnerable and unable to get out. And, sadly the group has lost some well-established and valued friends this year. But as much as the group laughs and empathises together, they grieve together too. They are on a unique journey that few would understand.

“We took the decision to move our sessions to Zoom a week after lockdown was announced and, whilst one or two were unable to, or just didn’t want to take part, we have gained a whole new group of patients to the group, we’ve had live music, presentations and all manner of interesting and informative conversations. This is a unique, inspiring and resilient group of friends, who will, as they will they do every Thursday, spend time supporting each other on International Men’s Day.”

‘Me and Men’s Space: Thoughts of a New Boy,’ written by a member of Men’s Space

“I have been going to Men’s Space regularly for around two years and I still feel something of a new boy but also still feel very much a part of the group. I well remember my first meeting – being pushed in my wheelchair down one of the many long corridors into the meeting room with lots of grinning faces jumping out to say hello. At the time I found this very disconcerting – hospices should be quiet places and not jolly and filled with laughter. I was soon to change this view.

“So began my membership of Men’s Space which has now become a habit. The first year involved meetings at the hospice – two hours of chatting, listening, visitors – the humans talked and the animals we stroked – and there were a number of trips (I went on a canal trip). But above all, Men’s Space is a place full of banter and repartee. It’s like a private club or the public bar of a pub. It’s a place where you are not identified by your disease but are just one of the lads. We do talk about our illnesses but they do not dominate us. And they used to supply us with good tea and cakes. But these early meetings did teach me something: the hospice is not just for dying, it’s also for living.

“My second year of meetings has been through Zoom and has been quite different (and there are no cakes!). But the technology has held together well, with a steady attendance of 8-12, and the efforts of Andy to create and push the Zoom meetings forward have been invaluable.

“But, what does Men’s Space give us in its virtual form? Firstly, it gives some people the chance to bang on about gardening (sorry – but I hate gardening) and others the opportunity to tell jokes. Sadly, Men’s Space has also become a place from which to depart; we have lost several members this year. However, one thing is clear. Men’s Space has not only survived but has thrived during its time on Zoom and will return to the real world, stronger and more relevant than ever.”

Another Men’s Space member shared: 

“I think we’d all agree that the strength of the group lies in the fact that we’re all in much the same boat. Despite the fact that it’s sinking, we’re not going down without a fight, and some good friendship along the way.”

Find out more about Men’s Space on our website.