A life-changing campaign – Light On – is launching across Dorset to tackle the stigma of talking about mental distress and emotional struggle, particularly among men.
A network of organisations including local businesses, the NHS, Public Health Dorset and Bournemouth University, have joined forces to build mental wellbeing together and put an end to men dealing with mental health difficulties alone and in the dark.
It urges men to go beyond the banter and talk openly about how they are feeling and whether they are coping.
The campaign aims to train champions and ambassadors to spread the message across the whole of Dorset reaching men where they work, exercise, socialise and live.
Businesses, individuals, charities and sports clubs will be encouraged to join the campaign as it gains momentum to share the message to ‘turn your light on’ and give permission to someone to have a conversation about mental health challenges.
Andrew Coleman, Founder of Light On, said: “It is time to put an end to the silent struggle among men because of the taboo and stigma about talking when you’re not coping very well.
“This silence is leading to pain, suffering and suicide – and it has to stop.
“This campaign will save people’s lives because it will make it OK for people to have a conversation and ask for help.
“It will transform the way Dorset people, men in particular, deal with mental health and mental health difficulty.
“We want as many people as possible to share our message and to get involved.
“We must create such a loud voice between us that everyone knows how to have a conversation about seeking and receiving help.
“We want thousands of people to ‘turn their Light On’ with us.”
Andrew is one of a group of men who met through the charity Dorset Mind and wanted to do more to help other men who may be struggling.
All have personal experience of the difficulties and damage caused by mental health problems, with many of them losing friends or colleagues to suicide.
Ty Temel, Owner of Halo Bournemouth, pictured left, said: “A year ago we started talking about how we could stop this wave of distress amongst men in Dorset that is leading some to take their own lives.
“It’s great that this campaign is coming to fruition – as the start of a larger piece of work.
“There are so many of us who have lain awake at 3am wondering how much longer we can cope and not knowing where to turn.
“We wanted to create a campaign that showed people that it’s OK to talk, it’s OK to say you’re not coping well and it’s OK to get help.
“If people show that they have their ‘Light On’ then others will know that they’re someone to talk to, who will listen.
“That, in turn, will shine a light on this issue and bring it out of the shadows.”
Also leading the campaign is Craig Mathie, pictured right, Managing Director of Bournemouth 7s Festival, and – as is Ty – an Ambassador for Dorset Mind.
The Light On campaign was built using research from panels of men across Dorset who came together to share how they felt about talking about mental health.
They helped to shape the campaign’s focus on making sure that men knew how to talk as well as when to talk.
As a result, local businesses, clubs, charities and individuals will be offered training and workshops to train people in the basics of mental wellbeing in later phases of the campaign.
Importantly, they will be encouraged to have courageous conversations that go beyond everyday banter.
Marianne Storey, CEO at Dorset Mind, pictured left, said: “This is such a vital campaign for people in Dorset, particularly at this time as we recover from the Covid-19 pandemic.
“Even more people than ever are struggling with mental distress and it is essential that we create a county that is open and compassionate about talking about it.
“I believe that Light On is going to save lives.
“If enough people get involved and turn their ‘Lights On’ then more people can come forward and ask for help.
“And if we all play our own vital role in this campaign then we can all contribute to preventing distress and ultimately suicide.
“We must not give up until everyone has the help they need.”
Dee Swinton, Dorset Mind’s Income Generation and Marketing Manager, pictured right, said: “The Light On initiative has been launched as a response to a growing awareness of mental health issues, especially among men.
“A survey by Mind charity found that one in eight men in the UK admit to suffering from mental health problems, while suicide is the leading cause of death for men under 45.
“At Dorset Mind we are determined to tackle these statistics alongside our partners and change the situation for men in Dorset.”
A survey is also being carried out in conjunction with Bournemouth University to find out what a greater number of men in Dorset feel about their mental health – and what might be stopping them seeking help.
The findings will be used to help the Light On team further develop their campaign.
It’s set to run for five years across Dorset and is expected to reach hundreds of thousands of people.
Already 24 businesses and organisations, including Osprey, AFC Bournemouth and both BCP and Dorset councils, are partners and organisers are expecting many more to sign up online as word spreads across communities and workplaces.