A SAFE environment for men to talk to each other without any pressure or judgement.

That’s the idea behind Helensburgh’s latest mental health hub, due to open in the town next week.

Males Tales, based in the recently revamped Drumfork Community Centre in Churchill Square, will offer the chance for men aged 16 and over to gather for a chat and a cup of tea, to increase awareness of the issues plaguing Scotland’s health crisis.

The number of deaths by suicide across the country reached a five-year high in 2018, with men accounting for 74 per cent of the 784 people who took their own lives last year.

In Argyll and Bute, the figure was the highest since 2011, with the number of males who died from suicide having doubled since 2017, to a total of 14.

READ MORE: Sharp rise in suicide rates in Argyll and Bute

In the wake of the shocking statistics, Helensburgh resident John Lewis has been encouraged to set up Males Tales to fill a gap in the area’s support network.

John works with the Royal Navy, but he is keen to stress that the newly-established group, which gets up and running on Monday, November 4, is not exclusively for armed forces personnel, and is open for anyone who may be struggling.

He told the Advertiser: “The group’s aim is to provide a safe environment for men to talk to each other without any pressure or judgment. There will be no fee and no need to register your name.

“Although it is labelled as a group, it will not be run as a group session; everyone who comes can feel free to just have a cup of tea and a blether as part of a group or with other individuals as they please.

“They do not even need to speak at all if they don’t want to, they can just listen in.

“It will not be a therapy session. It will be somewhere for everyone to just relax, be themselves and hopefully - if they need it - give and receive support to each other, purely in the form of a friendly ear.”

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John wants to see as many men in the area as possible come along and find out what the group is all about.

And he is confident that if and when they do, there will be no end to the benefits.

“A quick 10-minute chat with someone might not mean much to you,” he said, “but if you come along, that 10-minute chat might have a very positive effect on whoever you are talking to.

“So, if you don’t want to come for yourself, come for the complete stranger whose day you may brighten up.

“My current role in the Royal Navy, which I have been doing for 12 months, sees me working with people who are wounded, injured or sick and cannot deploy to sea on a submarine or a ship.

“I’ve came into contact with a lot of personnel suffering from mental health issues.

“What I have noticed on a couple of occasions is that male personnel who are assigned a female may close up - but I have had it the opposite too, where they have been assigned a female and they open up more to my female colleagues.

“So I feel it’s important to have somewhere that men can come and feel safe to speak their mind to other men and not feel judged.”

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The group, the first of its kind in the area, will meet on the first and third Monday of every month, from 6.30pm to 8.30pm.

John added: “I would like the group to eventually run itself, once up and running we would like to run courses in mental health, first aid, suicide and self-harm awareness.

“I know it may be old fashioned and unpopular but the fact is some men still do not feel comfortable opening up, not only to females but anyone who is a stranger or in a position of authority.

“Hopefully this will give them somewhere to go and speak freely, whether that be about a specific issue, the football, or how rubbish their tea was that night; it doesn’t really matter as long as they feel safe and comfortable doing so.”

For more information, email malestales@yahoo.com or follow Males Tales Helensburgh on Facebook, @MTHelenb on Twitter and malestales on Instagram.

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