Edward's story

Edward

Parent carer and senior nurse Edward opens up about why he set up a group to help men to look after their mental health, as well as his own struggles and how he improved his wellbeing through the help of a Carer Grant.

Edward is a Group Leader at Ampthill Baptist Church where he started a men’s community group in light of the shocking statistics surrounding the deterioration of men’s mental health in the UK. In particular the increase in the suicide rate among young men, and he wanted to do something about it. 

He explained: “The group supports men in all aspects of life, building close relationships and exploring deeper authentic connections with each other. It’s open to men of all ages, from any background, faith or no faith, with no judgement at all, just the wish for them to willingly shoulder each other’s burdens.

“The group has been a considerable source of strength, support and laughter throughout the pandemic and beyond, as we continue to run activities which build connection – monthly blokes’ breakfast, forest walking, fun bike rides, curry and pub nights. 

“During the pandemic I started to really struggle with my own mental health, juggling demands as my workload went through the roof and caring for my daughter who is autistic and has pathological demand avoidance (PDA). She avoids everyday demands and she struggles with any social situation. Often she wants to have contact with others but finds that she is unable to do so due to anxiety levels. She avoids anything from getting dressed, having meals, personal hygiene and making friends. My wife and I have to flex life continually to accommodate this and have had to use a lot of professional support, in order to facilitate her school education and social development.

“I work in a senior training and education role for community nurses, across the whole of Bedfordshire covering around 400 staff. When the pandemic was at its height, I was working extremely long hours and this was having a significant effect on my mental and physical health. I went to see my GP who recognised this and I had to take some time off in order to recover.

“I can only encourage men who feel as though their mental health is deteriorating to seek help. This could be mood changes, irritability with close family and spouse, low motivation, overeating and over drinking. It is important for men to become proactive investing in their own mental health before things deteriorate. I’ve learnt the hard way. Take a self-check and review your mental fitness, in the same way you would address physical fitness. Men must also make steps to be more open to getting help sooner, before it gets too much.

“I decided learning a new skill would be good for my mental health. I didn’t want anything pressured or performance driven, but something creative, where I could switch off from the demands of work and caring.

 

“With a Carers Grant I attended the instructor level Jack Raven Bush Craft Course in Kent. I learnt night navigation, fire making, tree recognition and how to use the woodland to survive, bow drilling, shelter building, rope making and safe knife skills. The course gave me a new set of skills that increased my confidence and a greater appreciation of the environment we live in. It also provided me with a well needed mental break, during an extremely stressful time.

 

“My intention is to build on the knowledge of this course and in future become a Bush Craft Instructor to assist in supporting men who struggle with mental health. Over the next 12 months I will be collating evidence for the Outdoor Learning Organisation so I can get accredited.”