EACH week men from across west Cumbria gather in the Garry Purdham Suite at Whitehaven RLFC ‘just to talk’.

‘Mind Ya Marras’ was set up in 2019 by a group of volunteers who wanted to shatter the stigma around men’s mental health.

Between 10 and 20 men currently attend each week and can talk about anything they want in a safe environment.

Gavin Cattanachi, a founding member of the group, who has struggled with his own mental health, said: “We just talk about stuff that’s going on. If people have problems, we talk about those. A newcomer last week said they were surprised at how honest and open people were.

“We’ve cultivated this environment where you can talk about deeper stuff. It could be the only place in the world where you can go and talk about emotional stuff. People will empathise and provide advice.”

Mr Cattanachi said there was a need to for as many initiatives as possible to get men talking about how they feel.

He said: “I find it baffling how difficult is for men to talk but it is. Probably local culture has a bit to do with it. We are an ex-mining, rugby league community. Everybody has got to be tough and just carry on but that’s not always sustainable.”

Mr Cattanachi was frank about how his involvement in the group can be difficult to deal with at times.

He said: “I love being a part of it but it can be heavy. Sometimes people are desperately trying to get us to help family members because they’ve got nowhere to turn. 

“I have really struggled with bottling things up and not talking. That toxic masculinity that is killing men. We’ve got a suicide rate around here 50 per cent higher than average. It kills men.

“That’s what I get out of it. That’s why I need to do it.”