Matt Anderson is a Carer Wellbeing Support Worker and part of our Community and Young Adult Carers Team. He also volunteers as a Community Responder with the South East Coast Ambulance Service.
Having read the title, you may be wondering where this blog is going. I will explain as I go along.
My name is Matt and along with my colleagues Maxine, Graham and Roger, we offer support and friendship to men in West Sussex who care for family members or friends who couldn’t cope without their help.
Several years ago we recognised that some of the men who were registered with Carers Support West Sussex wanted their own group, where they could meet other men in caring roles.
Thanks to the good work of an ex-colleague Ian and others, the group took shape and became a regular feature of what our organisation offers to carers.
Why a specific group for men?
You could legitimately argue that the role of a man who cares for a family member or friend is no different to the role of a woman who does the same – I wouldn’t disagree with this. But the fact that men on our books were telling us they wanted their own group was important.
One issue was that many of our support groups tend to have a female majority – I guess there are demographic reasons for this but my view is that women are perhaps just more inclined to seek support from others. The result is that men can sometimes lack the viewpoints and company of other men in these groups.
“I can’t speak for all men, but I know I can find it hard to open up.”
There is also something fundamentally different about how men seek (or don’t seek) help, support and friendship. I can’t speak for all men, but I know I can find it hard to open up. So our men’s group provides an option to men who tend to do things the way men do things. To paraphrase Shakespeare, I don’t think we wear our hearts on our sleeves quite as much. It can take a lot for us to admit we are struggling.
So we wanted to provide a setting where men can open up (or not open up) and get some moral support, practical advice and friendship in what are very busy roles caring for their partners, children, parents or others.
What do we do & where do we meet?
The group meets monthly on different days of the week. It has grown into a very supportive, inclusive and effective place for our carers to get some respite. The group is not a traditional support group; it meets for activities and visits throughout the year.
“One of our men summed up his preference for visits succinctly by saying ‘anything involving petrol or metal and I’m in’”
This is where title words come in. One of our men summed up his preference for visits succinctly by saying ‘anything involving petrol or metal and I’m in’. So our visits to Shoreham Airport, the Bluebell Railway, the Shoreham Lifeboat and a factory in Lancing have been particularly interesting to him.
Another member of our group is a hugely knowledgeable geologist who is an expert in the building stones of Sussex churches. He has visited all of them in West and East Sussex and written wonderful books about their stones. Luckily for us he has given us talks on three churches, the most recent being in Shoreham.
Other visits this year have been to the RSPB Pulborough Brooks and ten pin bowling in Rustington
The coffee comes into every group we do, as there is always a chance to chat and have some refreshments. The odd pint has also been known to feature.
Originally the group was the ‘Worthing Men’s Group’ and many of our meetings tend to be in and around Worthing. Arundel is also a favourite venue. However, men from anywhere in West Sussex are warmly welcome to join us and in the longer term we would like to set up other men’s groups in the county.
Our men’s group is not a traditional support group but many supportive conversations happen in the course of the visits and activities we do. Sometimes we just meet for coffee and a chat and we will meet for a Christmas lunch this year as usual. Most of our get togethers are flexible – this means you can come to part or all of the group. We usually meet for a couple of hours maximum unless we are going to somewhere special like the Bluebell.
One of our Men’s Group members, Roger said:
“The men’s group is a great form of support. Opportunities to just do something different, getting to know other male carers, catch up on the latest news that may be of use to your own situation, sharing stories and difficulties.
A time to think of yourself for a few hours.”
If you would like to go onto our men’s group mailing list just let us know and we will let you know about times and venues each month. Our next group meets at Squires Garden Centre in Washington for some ceramic painting on Friday 18 November at 11am – so it’s not all about petrol and metal after all!
If you would like to make a donation to Carers Support West Sussex, please click on the image below.