“Sharing experiences is really powerful. It just gets you through.”
“Excellent discussion topics, very thought provoking”
“It makes you realise we are not alone”
We run workshops and courses in Yorkshire to empower people to improve their mental wellbeing. Working with our partners in the voluntary and community sector, we enable people in particularly difficult circumstances to connect with others, recognise their own strengths, challenge gender stereotypes that may be holding them back and move forward with their lives. We’re a not-for-profit organisation based in Leeds, UK.
15 women, four languages, Six weeks and one question…
…how can we build our confidence and resilience whilst dealing with the pressures that society puts on women?
This February, a group of South Asian women joined a Humans Being group at the Hamara Centre in Beeston. They had very different backgrounds, different nationalities and different experiences of gender and mental health. They didn’t know what would happen on the course and to be honest, we didn’t know either.
So we looked at what it means to be a woman, what others expect, what helps, what limits us and what we want to change. Running a course through translators has challenges but, helped by some brilliant volunteers, the women supported each other to speak, to listen and to understand differences, similarities, problems, hopes and aspirations.
What they told us at the end of the course was inspiring:
“I’ve changed. Now I’m able to speak up, I know myself better and I’m confident to express my thoughts.”
“It’s a great opportunity for women to share thoughts and feelings and support each other. It allows you to speak what you feel and makes women feel more confident and powerful.”
“It was an amazing group. I saw a huge leap in confidence in lots of the women and it was wonderful to see them bond, make friends and sign up for more Hamara programmes. We were all a bit teary at the end!”
Thanks to Laura, Dalveer, Shanaz and all at Hamara for working with us to deliver the course.
From ‘grow a pair’ to ‘Real men care’
Mental wellbeing and gender at Leeds College of Building
How does a ‘real man’ act?
“He takes charge, he doesn’t talk about feelings, he sits on his arse, drinks alcohol, doesn’t do shopping or cleaning and doesn’t listen to his girlfriend.”
How do you deal with stress?
“Shut myself in my room, throw stuff, punch stuff, shout, swear, break stuff, smoke, drink alcohol.”
What would you say to a friend who’s depressed or stressed?
“Grow a pair, stop being a girl, grow up.”
These were some of the responses that Humans Being got from participants when we started running our Identity Wellbeing and Gender course at the Leeds College of Building in November 2018. The group of 10 young people were dealing with some pretty challenging issues – all of them had missed a lot of school, most had poor literacy and numeracy, some were in care, others were carers and many were recovering from abuse or neglect.
It wasn’t easy. Some of the participants found it a difficult journey but they worked hard, they were increasingly honest with themselves and each other and slowly, change started to happen. We talked about anger, conflict, listening skills friendship and how a positive masculinity could be good for our mental health.
By the end of the six weeks participants were telling us that they had started to see a few things differently and do a few things differently:
‘Now I understand more about issues that are going on with me and how to deal with them better. I’ve learned to take time out when I need it now and to do breathing exercises to relax. I’ve actually learned how to be calm.’
‘‘They’re good sessions, it’s always fun. I like learning listening skills and team work but what I’ve really learned is how important friendships are’.
At the end of the course, the group had a few messages for any young people who are having a tough time or struggling with their emotions:
“Spend time with your friends and family and talk about it.”
“Don’t drink loads of alcohol – go to the gym, go for a walk or a bike ride instead.”
“Be positive, don’t think negatively and contact mental health services if you need to.”
“A real man takes care of himself and others, doesn’t hurt people, doesn’t fight, doesn’t hit girls, isn’t abusive or aggressive and respects women. You don’t have to keep it all inside to be a real man.”
Thanks to all at Leeds College of Building and especially to the participants on the Identity course. I think we learned as much as you did.