By Billy Webb and Jordan Mapp
Matt’s Meet Up is a group set up by myself and Billy Webb in memory of our friend, Matt Western-Smith, who took his own life in 2016. We set out to create a non-judgmental environment where men over the age of 18 can come and talk about things they may be bottling up inside or feel they cannot say to their friends, family or colleagues.
We were inspired by the actions of a similar group called Andy’s Man Club, which operates in the north of England. After seeing their work we felt it was something we could provide to men in our area. Billy contacted Andy’s Man Club for information but as they were focusing on setting up groups in their area, we decided to go it alone and launch ours for Leicestershire.
After a few months with the idea on the back burner, Billy asked me my thoughts on starting the group and it began from there. With the close help and support of Matt’s family we came up with a plan, the name, venue and the aim of the group.
Social media has been our biggest ally over the course of setting up Matt’s Meet Up. We had a phenomenal response to our initial message on Facebook detailing our plans to start the group. Friends, family and members of the public who had heard about the cause shared our post almost two thousand times. Our message was out.
From there we were fortunate enough to attract interest from the media, with the Daily Express online and BBC Radio Leicester getting in touch to interview us, enabling us to further spread the word. Thanks to this publicity, together with social media following, our first Matt’s Meet Up was a success. As we hoped, people came along to share their views, personal experiences and ideas and those same people have given us feedback on how to make the next Matt’s Meet Up even more meaningful and keep the momentum going.
As a learning experience to for ourselves, we made the two-hour drive to Wakefield to take part in a long-established Andy’s Man Club group, which was both welcoming and informative. After seeing their group operate like a well-oiled machine, it was evident there were small changes we could make to our own delivery.
After adapting elements of this new format into the second Matt’s Meet Up, we encountered new faces and garnered even more positive feedback. Before this, we had our first television interview which was featured on BBC’s East Midlands Today show and it’s that interview which has led me to the point from which I am writing this.
After that interview aired we have been inundated with messages from guys asking when the next Meet Up is, people offering support and has even resulted in us to being asked to talk at Mental Health Awareness weeks at our local universities.
As we wait for our next Matt’s Meet Up to roll around, me and Billy continue to take part in interviews so we can keep spreading the message.
The reception to our group and the news pieces we have been featured in have shown us just how important the issue of mental health is in our current society. Until we lost Matt, we hadn’t considered the huge impact mental health problems have on individuals and men in particular.
Looking at the figures of men causing harm to themselves as a result of mental health battles was astonishing. Suicide is the biggest killer of men aged under 45 in the UK and in 2015, 75 per cent of all suicides were male.
We want to change men’s perception of talking about mental health; by encouraging them to open up we hope to prevent what happened to Matt, happening to someone else. If we can make a difference to just one person, it will all be worth it.
With organisations such as Samaritans, Mind, Calm, Heads Together, Vent and so many more providing invaluable information, it is apparent that the issue of mental health needs to be addressed properly and we need to do what we can to combat and prevent it from increasing further from the sad state it is currently in.
Our group is called Matt’s Meet Up, we can be found on Facebook where the dates, times and other information about our group and mental health charities can be found. We are also starting to get a foothold in both Instagram and Twitter @MattsMeetUp so follow and contact us there too. Matt’s Meet Ups are every other Tuesday at the Walter Charles Centre, Oadby LE2 5QF. Feel free to message us on our social media and come along to the Meet Up for a chat. We must also say thank you to Vent for this opportunity. We look forward to seeing some new faces, Jordan Mapp.