West Midlands-based men’s mental health and suicide prevention charity, Tough Enough To Care, has expanded to Storage Giant’s Kingswinford facility.
Dad-of-two, Stuart Bratt 37, set up the charity after losing two of his best friends to suicide within four days of each other. He realized there was a huge stigma around talking about mental health issues amongst his friends, and men in general. And as a self-confessed stereotypical ‘macho’ man, Stuart never talked about mental health while growing up, throughout his career, or amongst his rugby-playing circle. He decided to open up the conversation amongst his friends by starting a Facebook support group which has snowballed into the charity Tough Enough To Care.
Around one in eight men in England have a mental health problem such as depression, anxiety, panic disorder or obsessive-compulsive disorder (OCD) and three times as many men as women die by suicide, yet men are less likely than women to access therapy or seek help.
Stuart says: “We’re trying to break that stigma, and to break the cycle of silence so people take on board the fact that even if you don’t understand it, you can still talk about it, and if you do understand it and know how bad it is, you don’t have to suffer alone. We’re not telling people you have to go to the doctor straight away, but come to one of our peer-support groups because they’re not clinical, it’s just a way of talking to people and understanding other people are going through the same thing.”
The former Industrial Engineer spent seven years in the RAF as a Weapons Technician before making the leap to run the charity full-time. Since starting the charity, Stuart has completed several mental health courses and is now an instructor in mental health first aid, and he and his team at Tough Enough To Care work with organisations across the country, to signpost men towards the best support.
“I’m ex-military so I could say go to Help for Heroes or Combat Stress, two of the bigger names in veteran support, whereas if you’ve never been in the military, there’s no point going to them. Equally, if you’ve not got anxiety, there’s no point going to Anxiety UK so what we try and do is help people and signpost people to the best service for them.”
Stuart says he rarely goes anywhere without bumping into somebody who wants to talk about the charity, be it discussing their own struggles, family or friends’ struggles, or to say thanks for the work the charity does.
He says: “It just takes one or two people in different situations in society to open up for everyone else to realise that it is okay to talk, and it is okay to speak out. And I think that’s what people haven’t done so far – but now the trend’s slightly changing with celebrities talking about it more, and the media, especially after what happened to Caroline Flack, being less intrusive into people’s mental health and more supportive towards it.”
The charity has plans to open a further six Tough Enough To Care peer support groups throughout the summer on top of the four running currently in the Midlands, Derby and Basingstoke. To cope with the organisation’s speedy expansion, Stuart, who had been storing the charity’s event kit and merchandise in his garage, has set up in a unit in the Storage Giant Kingswinford branch, which houses a mix of self-storage clients, SMEs and charities.
Simon Williams, CEO of Storage Giant, said “The stigma surrounding men’s mental health is still a huge problem in the UK, and charities and organisations like Tough Enough To Care are doing great work to address the issues and change the conversation. We look after a number of charitable groups across our Storage Giant facilities, since they find our flexible terms helpful. We’re proud to be able to support Stuart and his charity, and look forward to seeing Tough Enough To Care make even more of a difference.”