Healthwatch Essex Hosts Fella’s Fair

Last night Healthwatch Essex hosted a hugely successful Fella’s Fair event at Heybridge Swifts Football Club, in collaboration with Mid and South Essex Integrated Care System.

The event drew together experts, specialists and a wide variety of people with lived experience of men’s health issues. Stallholders included organisations providing information about gambling, hearing loss, mental health, weight management, domestic violence, NHS health checks and many more.

Errol McKellar with Dan Potts, Healthwatch Essex Engagement Manager

Before the match Errol McKellar from The Errol McKellar Foundation gave a pre-match talk to all of the players about prostate cancer and the signs and symptoms to look out for. Throughout the match three others told their stories relating to mental health, which was broadcast over the tannoy system.

James Wheeler, a veteran of the Armed Forces, spoke of his lived experience of mental health and suicide. He said, “You don’t really see enough events like this; an event tailored specifically for men in a place they are naturally attending anyway. I hope that by attending this event we get more people talking openly about mental health and some of the challenges they may be facing but keeping to themselves.”

Chris Gilham with Shawn Leek

Chris Gilham, Co-founder of Gambling Harm UK, described his experience of living with gambling addiction and the impact that had on his life and health, “We all have mental health – whether it’s good or bad – it exists. There is a lot of support available and people don’t always realise that. If one person walks away from today and thinks ‘oh, maybe I’m not alone with something now’ we’ve provided a bit of hope and that is so important.”

Finally Shawn Leek, perhaps better known as the ‘Mental Health Runner’ took to the mic to share his experiences and some of the techniques that have most helped him in his journey with mental health. He said, “It’s really important to get people together to raise awareness and this event is really well attended. The ultimate goal for me is to see how I can help and work together with other people and events like this are a really powerful way of making that happen.”

Jason Baker, Engagement Officer from Healthwatch Essex, who organised the event said: “One of the first steps in tackling men’s health issues, particularly mental health, is normalising and encouraging talking about it. The idea with this event was to bring support, advice and expertise to a place where a predominantly male crowd gathers anyway, so that they could benefit from having the opportunity to hear stories from their peers and understand more about issues that could affect them or their friends in the future. We’re incredibly pleased with how well the event went and how many connections were made both for the charities and services that attended and for the people who came to find out more.”

Dan Doherty, Alliance Director for the NHS in Mid and South Essex, said: “It’s just fantastic to be here at the Fella’s Fair at Heybridge Swifts in Maldon, my home town. It’s amazing to see so many stalls here promoting positive physical and mental health for men in particular. There are so many stalls here addressing issues which we, as men, are not always willing to talk about and we sometimes think of as taboo. From my perspective, as someone in the NHS, we find men between the ages of 30 and 60 some of the most difficult to reach, and yet there are loads and loads of people here, which is just fantastic. I’d love to see all sports clubs following the example of the Swifts, promoting positive health choices because it will make a massive difference, not just for the men in Essex, but also for the local NHS.”