Mental Health is not something to be taken lightly. Depression and feeling isolated is a serious illness which can affect any one of us in any walk of life. To have those feelings, which can escalate to suicidal thoughts, and to share those feelings, or to hear a loved one talk about those feelings, can be heartbreaking.
For electrician Craig Spillane he knew all to well what it’s like to experience a low state of mind when friends and loved ones confided in him.
“Some very close friends and family had spoken to me about committing suicide,” says Craig of Chesterton. Some of these people in my eyes had it all too live for and I couldn’t understand what would drive them to think that. Id had my own suicidal thoughts but that was in prison when I’d lost everything and thought I had nothing to live for, so these men who were around me, and who were struggling, it really was an eye opener for me.”
Craig admits – in a past life – he didn’t lead the best example to others, had relationship breakdowns with family and also a cocaine addiction which all culminated in experiencing suicidal thoughts himself. But with all that behind him he is on a mission – with the help of friends – to help men struggling with depression, addiction, who may feel isolated, have relationship troubles or finding it difficult to cope with bereavement.
In May 2019, Craig set up a an online chat group – Men Unite – which is growing daily by the thousands. “I knew that together as a group we would be able to talk to each other and discuss everyone’s issues so I set up a group on FaceBook and invited around 20 or 30 friends,” said Craig.
“I intended it to be a small group of close or mutual friends then I invited a few friends who I knew had, had struggles and beat addiction and were turning their lives around. One of the posts was from someone who I knew and who I knew had tried to commit suicide – to see him post this and to see the support offered from other men, some he didn’t even know, was remarkable.”
The group had 1,000 members after one week and has since grown to more than 9,000 and Craig, along with a supportive admin team, are looking to the future and hoping to set Men Unite up as a Community Interest Company (CIC).
“I now have a team of around eight from mainly Newcastle-under-Lyme and we’ve already built a relationship with other organisations. We are also in talks with local companies to deliver mental health awareness talks in the workplace.”
In July the group also held an awareness day which took place at the Cheshire Cheese, in Birches Head and received wide support. A pair of boxing gloves were donated by Midlands Middleweight title holder Nathan Heaney, of Stoke-on-Trent as well as a signed Stoke City FC shirt.
“We raised £1000 on that day. We auctioned off a pair of gloves donated and signed by Nathan Heaney and Joe Egan signed them too,” said Craig. “We also had a signed Stoke shirt too and we asked for donations for the BBQ. All money raised is to go towards a premises which we want to have in Newcastle-under-Lyme.”
Men Unite organisers are also arranging social get togethers and also decided a good way of the group meeting up would be through playing football and – Men Unite FC have now joined the Sunday League and will be playing in Coors Division 3 for the 2019/2020 season.
Men Unite FC will play their home games at the Holditch in Chesterton, and held a kit launch day on Sunday July 21.
Other games lined up in August, include a game against a Staffordshire Police team to be played at Newcastle Town, and a charity match on August 25th.
Men Unite has grown from an online awareness group to a community of it’s own – a community in real life – talking about real life – with the ultimate aim to help and support others.
“What makes me proud is the strength I see from the men in the group, the strength to open up and talk and then give advise and help to other members,” says Craig.
**You can find Men Unite on Facebook here.