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World Mental Health Day: Advice from one of WAY's Ambassadors

October 2021

WAY Ambassador Norman Smart shares his advice to mark World Mental Health Day on 10 October...

Today is World Mental Health Day.

Did you know 1 in 4 of us will experience a mental health problem each year. That could be a family member, a friend, a colleague, or it could be you.

Mental health is a vital national issue at the best of times, but the need for meaningful support in the community has become even more relevant as we’ve navigated the challenges of the pandemic.

There are many causes or triggers for a mental health episode.

Mine was the death of my wife Helen seven years ago. Shortly after her death I felt so helpless and alone I found myself having suicidal thoughts. Sadly at first, I couldn’t be open and discuss my emotions with my family and friends, after all us men just don’t do that...

Having joined WAY I have been able to do just that, be open and discuss my feelings. Thanks to their peer-to-peer support network, there is always someone I can reach out to, no matter what time of day it is.

If I’m having a black dog moment (a term Winston Churchill used for his depression) I can reach out on Facebook or the WAY forum on the website and I’m certain to have positive responses of support.

So, on this World Mental Health Day I would encourage everyone to be open with friends, family and colleagues, about how you’re feeling. It’s good to talk, trust me I’ve learned the hard way.

It was to this end that after several conversations with fellow male members of WAY at the Southampton AGM back in 2019, I decided to create the WAY Man Cave on Facebook.

The Man Cave is a subgroup of WAY intended to be a safe place for men to discuss issues affecting them (anything from health, relationships, parenting) – safe in the knowledge that the group membership is ONLY open to men (sorry Ladies!). The Man Cave is also aiming to be a safe space to express our feelings, request and offer support, vent safely and discuss topics of general interest to men. The Cave membership continues to grow and currently has 222 members.

My tips for other young widowed men and women who are struggling are:

-          Avoid excessive alcohol consumption. It may block out the pain to begin with and during, but it soon passes, as I learned from experience, and you end up back where you started.

-          Find someone who can support you, either in person or over then telephone. During lockdown, I found the telephone very helpful in keeping in touch.

-          Don’t bottle it up. Men don’t have to have stiff upper lips and broad shoulders and to remain silent about their feelings. These stereotypes are a thing of the past.

-          Exercise is also good. If you can, go for a walk every day, even if it’s just around the block.

-          Try to eat as healthily as possible, even if you don’t feel like eating.


About WAY

WAY is the only national charity in the UK for people aged 50 or under when their partner died. It’s a peer-to-peer support group operating with a network of volunteers who have been bereaved at a young age themselves, so they understand exactly what other members are going through.

WAY aims to provide emotional and practical support to young, widowed people – married or not, with or without children, whatever their sexual orientation – as they adjust to life after the death of their partner.

Please do drop us a line at enquiries@widowedandyoung.org.uk of you’d like to find out more about joining WAY’s peer to peer support network.

WAY Ambassador Norman Smart