A boxing club in the Midlands is urging men to open up and ask for help if struggling.
While mental health is a term used much more freely in society now compared to just a few years ago, male mental health is still cause for concern.
In the UK, men are three times as likely to take their own life than women, while suicide remains the single biggest killer of men under 45.
During Mental Health Awareness Week, Bright Star Boxing Academy’s head coach, Joe Lockley, has joined forces with Stu Cook – who runs the club’s ‘Counter Punch’ mental health sessions – to prove that emotions don’t emasculate.
Speaking about their initiative, Joe said mental health is a key part of their club in Shifnal, near Telford.
He said: “I know there is a real stigma around boxing, everyone thinks you have to be the toughest person in the world, but boxing can do so much for people who are struggling.
“If you can remove that stigma and talk about why they want to box in the first place.”
Joe added: “Counter Punch is all about bringing people together, sitting around having a chat and setting some goals.
“The boxing itself brings the endorphins out, but it also lets them work as a team to support each other to do things and talk about what they have achieved.
“That is so important, even small goals, being able to get the support from others in achieving them can make a big difference.”
Meanwhile Stu, who has a background in the military, credits boxing for saving his life.
Having served five years in the army and seen the horrors of his Afghanistan tour in 2009, including three landmine blasts and a rocket-propelled grenade attack, he returned home and developed PTSD [Post Traumatic Stress Disorder].
Chatting to the Express & Star, he said: “Mental health is not really something you can deal with on your own, you always need that helping hand.
“There is a thing where people who feel that they can’t do it on their own feel like they have failed. That couldn’t be further from the truth.
“If people are struggling, ask for help. Any help that is out there, not just us.
“Always seek help.”
He added: “You don’t have to be having a mental health episode, just even if it is day-to-day struggles with stress or struggling in any way, just come and seek help.
“If you want to come and watch [our sessions] then you can, if you want to talk, you can. Even if you want to just do boxing, you can do that. It is whatever you are confident to do, and it is at your own pace.”
The Counter Punch sessions are currently for men only, though the club hopes to introduce female sessions once the gym reopens following the coronavirus outbreak.
For more info, click here: Bright Star Boxing.