Chester-le-Street ARC partners with The Men’s Shed to support men’s mental health

As well as providing a meeting space for the group, the County Durham club is introducing men in their local community to the benefits of exercise and team sport

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The Men’s Shed in Chester-le-Street is a local charity, with over 100 members, which peer-to-peer mental health support to men. Their goal is to reduce stigma around men reaching out for support and asking for help, and they do this by creating a safe and confidential space for men to talk about their mental health and well-being. Other Men’s Sheds or Men in Shed groups can be found throughout the UK, often providing workshops where men can enjoy work on small projects – often learning new skills in the process – and as a result counteract loneliness, particularly amongst retirees.

Sport, exercise and belonging to a team have been proven to have a hugely positive impact on mental health. “This is why we, as a club, decided to reach out into our community and add something extra to The Men’s Shed,” explained Arran Lewcock, Chester-le-Street Club Captain. “We hosted our first session for members of The Men’s Shed on Tuesday, 2 April in our newly refurbished community cafe, The Arc, where we welcomed the men with a hot drink and some snacks. Although informal, the session tackled issues such as social isolation and anxiety.”

Although The Men’s Shed members understood the importance of mental health, the club wanted to promote physical health too. So with the support of CLSARC coaches and volunteers, they are now also providing an activity-based group on Sunday mornings in addition to the cafe-based discussions. The rowing started as an erg session, thanks to the great British weather, but moved on to The Men’s Shed first water session on 15 April. “Off they went, as a team, in one of our quads and they thoroughly enjoyed it!! Arran said.

The coaching team at the club aim to show the men that the skills required for rowing are transferrable to everyday life, and that they can use them to deal with situations they face. “We are really focused on communication, resilience and determination,” Arran adds. The Men’s Shed lead support worker, Andy Mastrangelo, said, “The support and access that Arran and the rowing club have provided has been fantastic and we look forward to continuing to work together.” Sessions continue weekly and the numbers of participants is increasing, with the benefits clear to see.

Arran concludes, “As a club we are playing a small, but especially important, part in our community and giving back to the local people that support us. Never has it been more important to talk and reach out and hopefully, through greater exposure, we can recruit new members and really promote rowing and the value our club brings to the area.”

3 men by boat racks From left: Andy Mastrangelo, Founder of The Men’s Shed; Arran Lewcock, Chester-le-Street ARC Club Captain; Gary Cutmore, Founder of The Men’s Shed.

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