WARRINGTON Wolves are home to a weekly mental health support group for men that encourages men to work on their ‘mental fitness’ and break the stigma around asking for help.

Offload and Extra-Time are the two groups that make up ‘Mental Fitness Tuesdays’ – a weekly session where Warrington men can listen to talks held by rugby league sporting heroes and be open about things they’re struggling with.

The project aims to create an environment where the discussion around mental health can be reframed as ‘mental fitness’ – something the men can work on, instead of being afraid of.

“I think with men in particular its about creating the right environment,” said James Howes, who is the health and wellbeing manager for the Warrington Wolves Charitable Foundation.

“Men aren’t hard to reach, it’s how you reach them and how you connect with them.”

The project started seven years ago and has since been given funding by the National Lottery.

The weekly sessions take place in the changing rooms at the Halliwell Jones Stadium and the group reframes the conversation around mental health though using fitness inspired language.

“Right at the start when we were talking about mental health, the conversation stopped and the barriers went up – but as soon as we started using the term mental fitness, people could relate to it a little bit,” said James.

“If you want to get physically fit, you go to the gym or do a physical activity, but if you want to become mentally fitter – where do you go?

“We provide that environment where men can come to the ‘mind gym’ and work on making their minds, their brains, and their feelings stronger and help them to create more resilience and let them know they’re not on their own.”

As well as getting the chance to be open about their issues, those who attend the group also get to hear from sporting legends who hold talks on different topics including stress and role models.

“When the men are listening to, in effect, hero’s that they’ve seen on the pitch and they’re talking about some of the feelings or situations they might have found themselves in, it really does build that connection with them,” said James.

Warrington Guardian: Kevin Young has been attending the sessions for the past four yearsKevin Young has been attending the sessions for the past four years (Image: Ben Stiff)

Roughly 30 men attend the weekly sessions, and they are open to any man that’s over the age of 18 – with one of the oldest attendees being 79.

Kevin Young, a 55-year-old mortgage adviser who lives in Chapelford, is one of the men who takes part in the ‘mental fitness’ sessions after joining the group four years ago.

“I just wanted to try something different, and it really resonated with me,” he said.

Kevin, who is originally from Liverpool, has struggled with poor mental health for nearly his whole life – but believes that Offload and Extra-Time have been a huge help in learning how to cope.

“It’s saved my life, without a shadow of a doubt,” he said.

“I cannot say that without this group I would still be here – it’s shown me that I am not alone, I’m just a human being.”

The sessions take place at 6.30pm every Tuesday and those who attend often meet newcomers outside the stadium so that they don’t have to walk in alone.

“The most important thing to know is that you’re not alone,” said Kevin.

“It’s not unusual to have poor mental fitness.”

For more information visit the Warrington Wolves Foundation website, or call 248894.