Mental Health: Expresso Yourself

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For this case study, we head to Wales to meet Andrew Rowley, formerly of MAN v FAT Newport and now of MAN v FAT Merthyr, talking about their mental health mornings with Expresso Yourself.

What was the inspiration for Espresso Yourself?
Espresso Yourself started because I identified a clear gap in what was needed. For an abundance of reasons that I won’t go into, my own mental health took a bit of a wobble. Something quite serious happened to someone I love and while I did everything in my power to solve the problem for them, I neglected how it affected me.

Like most men I bottled it up, ignored what others could see and tried to plough through. I soon realised this doesn’t work. I can remember sitting in the car park of my work, crying, thinking how I am going to get out of this and knew that I needed to seek help

How did you organise it?
First it was my wife who helped me massively, always being a listening ear, but also seeking help through therapy. This led me to imagine what Espresso Yourself could be, and what could have been if I’d been able to access a network where I could have shared earlier.

I sat down with my coach at Brown Bears Coffee in Cwmbrân, and we talked it through. The idea of it being linked to our coffee catch up was where the name Espresso Yourself came from. Conversation and caffeination. We don’t discriminate if people want to drink tea though!

How did you get the community involved?
We started out with 5-10 guys. I shared my story at that first session and ever since we’ve had guys sharing theirs. We’ve grown massively. Now this has grown, with other local clubs developing the model in their own right and branching out into having a well-being team within our club to support guys whenever they feel they need it.

We’ve even been featured on a Radio 4 documentary which was a really proud moment for us.

What were (if any) the issues in organising?
In terms of organisation we, early on, decided that we wanted to make what we do as ‘free’ as possible. Minimise the cost for the lads, provide the coffees free of charge and even find venues where we could do things that cost nothing but have really good mental health and physical health benefits such as walks and being out in nature.

We’ve even prioritised places where there is no car parking charge to remove as many barriers to participation as possible.

What would you say to anyone else who wants to help their community improve their mental health?
If you want to run an Espresso Yourself, yourself go ahead. We aren’t precious about the name, the format, what we do or how you want to run with it in your own way. My only advice is do it. Be open frank and honest about why it’s beneficial to talk and get the lads chatting and sharing. I promise you won’t regret it.

In my experience it makes it much easier to understand the reasons why players end up getting their hair off at session when you’ve heard their stories. You can also see massive changes in people too.

Watch the Expresso Yourself explainer from Newport | And take a look at Swansea’s version too!


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