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North East men open up about their mental health

By Kris Jepson

Men in the North East have opened up about their mental health issues to mark Mental Health Awareness Week.

As part of ITV's new mental wellness campaign, which was launched by Ant and Dec during Saturday's Britain's Got Talent, ITV News Tyne Tees has spoken to some men in the region to discover how they are dealing with their mental wellbeing.

Watch @krisjepson's report here:

Seventy-three-year-old Ernest Malt, known as 'Ernie', has lived with mental health issues since he was medically discharged from the Navy due to a brain haemorrhage.

He told ITV News his depression got so bad, he contemplated taking his own life.

I started off with mild depression around about then. I’d lost all my confidence, trying to find work and stuff like that. I got to the stage where I even attempted suicide and that is an awful place to be. For me it was like the will to live and the self preservation, it switched off.

– Ernie Malt
Ernie Malt Credit: ITV News

Ernie Malt sought help from a charity called Mental Health North East and soon became a volunteer for the group.

After he overcame his own mental health issues, he independently set up a dementia friendly cafe and a sensory garden in his home village of Evenwood, County Durham.

He said working in the garden gets him outside and into the fresh air, gives him purpose and is therapeutic.

Well if you stop thinking about yourself and you start caring about others and hence the garden and everything else, you know people say you’ve done a really good job and all that, but it did do a great job for me. People with mental health issues, they came and they just, you could see the joy and the happiness in them, because they were doing something

– Ernie Malt

In September the Office for National Statistics (ONS) published new figures which suggested the suicide rate nationally had increased by nearly 12 per cent since 2017.

The North East had the highest male suicide rate in England and Wales.

  • 20.4 North East male suicides per 100,000
  • 19 Yorkshire & Humber male suicides per 100,000
  • 16.2 Average male suicides in England & Wales per 100,000
ManHealth Credit: ITV News

A recently formed group called ManHealth told ITV News it is now supporting more than 100 men a week in 10 areas of the North East over their mental health.

The peer support group offers sessions discussing all elements of mental health each week, which enables the men who attend to learn about their conditions, make friends and socialise with like-minded men.

We’re all about preventing men reaching crisis, whereas a lot of the services out there are very reactive. So we want to be stopping the men reaching the suicide idealisation, suicidal thoughts. It’s basically an opportunity for men to come together and build up real friendships, real camerarderie, real understanding and learn about the condition and then grow from that and prevent them going into crisis.

– Paul Bannister, ManHealth
Tom Watson Credit: ITV News

One of the first members of the group was Tom Watson, from Darlington. He has loved with mental health issues and depression since his childhood.

He said the sessions have helped him improve his mental wellbeing along with the physical activities and challenges the group organises too,

Depression and other forms of mental health, it’s a very isolating condition, it makes you feel alone and it makes you withdraw from society really, so being able to get out and breathe in that fresh air, talking to other people, communicating, connecting with others, I think it’s a great thing. The good thing is we’re all at different stages of our recovery which means that we’ve all got different experiences to bring with each other and to support each other and that’s what the idea of the peer support groups is all about really.

– Tom Watson