A man who has battled his own mental health issues and lost his cousin to suicide is running support groups to help others. 

With suicide being the biggest killer of men under 40, Directions for Men was set up by Chris Judge in 2019.

It encourages men struggling to find ways to cope by introducing them to new activities, as this is proven to help with low moods.

The first group meeting was set up in Warrington in October 2019 and, a month later, a second emerged in Bolton.

Not long after, Directions for Men set up more groups in Wythenshawe, Burnage and finally, the third Manchester-based group began at BluSci at Old Trafford in February 2020. It runs every Thursday afternoon. 

Chris said he set up the group for three reasons.

He said: “I have worked in the criminal justice system and drug and alcohol services for a number of years. In both sectors we mainly see men and quite a lot of those men have mental health issues.

"I have always thought there must be something we can do to help men before it gets to the stage where they are finding themselves at court or a drug/alcohol worker because they have developed an addiction.”

Secondly, Chris says he has experienced his own mental health issues and was diagnosed with panic disorder a number of years ago.

He said: "On a couple of occasions I called ambulances because I thought I was having a heart attack.”

There are only two options for such “disorders”, either medication – which doesn’t help everyone, or therapy – for which is a two-year waiting list.

Chris said: “I think it would have really helped if there was a third option of going to see a group of men and talk to them about what I’m going through."

Chris lost his cousin to suicide in 2019, who he stayed with on several occasions. 

Chris said: “When he died, I felt so guilty that I wasn’t there when he needed it, especially after his family helped me so much.

"As my grief progressed, I realised there’s nothing I could have done but I set up Directions for Men as a way of trying to help other men avoid that outcome.”

They hold face to face meetings where people are invited to just turn up to their nearest venue. 

Admin, Mike McDonagh said: “When you arrive to see us you will be greeted by a smile and a handshake, and the offer of a brew to help settle any nerves."

Attendees do not have to share if they are not ready but are expected to listen and respect those who do open up.

In the Greater Manchester area, sessions currently take place in Old Trafford, Openshaw, Didsbury and Wythenshawe, and there are also some in Cheshire.

Over the past year, Directions for Men have had more than 1,800 attendees.

They support men who are:

• Suffering from anxiety/depression

• Bereavement

• Suffering with gambling/alcohol/drug addictions

• Military veterans

• LGBT+ • Victims of domestic abuse

• Suffering from physical/emotional/sexual abuse

• Feel isolated

• Have problems with debt/housing/employment/relationships

• Or those who simply feel lost.

According to members of the group, 64 per cent agree that walking is the best way to get out of a depressive episode. A total of 19 per cent see cycling as a great pick me up, and 17 per cent go to the gym to help with their low moods.

As well as attendees, the groups need volunteers to run sessions. Full training and support will be provided.

More information can be found at facebook.com/DirectionsForMen, or by emailing hello@directionsformen.org.uk.

If you're struggling with your mental health or are in crisis, you can call Samaritans free of charge on 116 123 - they're available 24 hours a day, 365 days a year.