AT a time when suicide remains the biggest killer of males aged 45 and under, much is made of the need for men to have somewhere to turn to in times of difficulty.

In 2017, 5,821 people took their own lives in the UK, with figures showing that around three quarters of those were men.

And with millions of men reporting having no friends they feel able to turn to in times of hardship, warnings of a national ‘crisis of masculinity’ are increasingly being voiced.

Earlier this year, amid such a backdrop, Ramsbottom resident Rob Williams decided to set up a group where men could meet and socialise.

The aim was to create an environment where men could talk openly to one another in a bid to forge support networks, and ultimately lasting friendships, regardless of age or background.

The group’s members range from teenagers to pensioners, and they regularly meet through a host of activities, including a singing group, a walking group, and archery outings.

A former engineer, Mr Williams’ experience of stress resulted in him pursuing a career as a musician, however, it was the loss of two friends, both of whom took their own lives, that was the catalyst for setting up the group.

He explained: “They had split up with their wives, and then they lost custody of their kids, and just could not cope.

“It is a problem affecting a lot of men, but when men get to the stage where they ask for help, it is often too late.

“Our organisation aims to get people working together. We are not necessarily looking for people who feel depressed ­— it is about creating a network before anything goes wrong.”

“One of the lads in our singing group split up with his wife suddenly, so he was in a bit of a bad place, but we went down to the pub so he had someone to talk to.”

While Rammy Men is primarily targeted at men ­— as the name suggests ­— there are also three female members of its singing group.

Establishing a sense of community, and looking out for those living around you, is a major part of the group’s ethos, and is something Mr Williams says men are missing in an ever-changing society ­— even in traditionally close-knit towns such as Ramsbottom.

“If you look back 40 or 50 years ago, everyone worked in the same place,” he explained. “We had something like 40 mills here in Ramsbottom.

“People worked with their neighbours and they did stuff with them away from work. Now we get up at 6am and drive to Manchester and come home at night and just watch TV.

“We have lost our community and I want to see it come back again, and get men working together.

“We need something between feeling a bit miserable and ending up in A&E. There is a massive chasm, and that is where we hope to fit in.”

In the coming months, the group is hoping to step up its activities, and among the plans in the pipeline are establishing a Men in Sheds group. The group is also looking to create a permanent base by renting or building a room in Ramsbottom.

Meanwhile, its walking group is also hoping to undertake a walk from Land’s End to John o’ Groats next year.

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