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Breaking down barriers

Millburn Community Association is a voluntary organisation working across the Causeway Coast & Glens area. It offers various clubs, sporting activities and wellbeing projects to the community as well as an Armed Forces Veterans Breakfast Club supporting the local veteran community with activities.

The high rate of unemployment in the area coupled with low educational attainment mean many young men have feelings of isolation and worthlessness. Millburn Community Association has addressed these issues over the years by providing clubs and programmes and planned to use this BCPP project to further tackle health issues prevalent in men from working class areas. The Community Association partnered with Pharmacist Evan Reid of Henderson’s Pharmacy to run this BCPP project with 10 local men.

The group realised that men are the hardest group to engage normally so hoped that offering skills in woodland management, furniture building and gardening activities in an outdoor space would entice the men to attend the group. It is often said that men talk more about issues shoulder to shoulder than they do face to face so by encouraging a work type environment, this would encourage issues to be addressed.

Group work sessions commenced with the local pharmacist leading on 10 topics chosen by the men. The group had planned to use Zoom however as the restrictions lifted, some were able to meet face to face which was just fantastic. The pharmacist also co facilitated four further sessions with the community/voluntary partners including Be Safe Be Well, Men`s Shed, Causeway Adventures, Inspire Veteran Support Group and Focus on Family. These agencies and organisations were available to offer future support for participants and their families as and when they needed them.

Mental and physical wellbeing were explored along with drugs and alcohol awareness. By the end of the group sessions, participants were better informed and knew where to get support when needed. One of the topics that the men felt important was how to get a good night’s sleep. The pharmacist introduced several bedtime routines that would assist with relaxation and a local psychotherapist delivered an interactive workshop on mindfulness at bedtime.

Pharmacist Evan has a natural ability to build relationships with his calm and warm manner and the group soon welcomed his input. The pharmacist’s input is key to all BCPP projects - building relationships, breaking down barriers and providing the project participants with support, along with good information. As relationships developed, lived experience was shared within the room and the men saw the pharmacy as a place where they could go for advice and support.

The pharmacist and other partners built confidence within the group and developed group discussion on health related topics and issues. By providing meaningful skills based training and activity to improve their knowledge, the project encouraged more learning to develop and also an appetite for employment and volunteering. The men themselves reflected on the project’s success to date, collectively stating that it has been great to have the opportunity to spend time with like-minded people.

It has been apparent that connecting with each other has been beneficial to the group members. This project showed the men that there is also a support base within the community sector to help them tackle issues. Although the project has now finished, the men still meet on a Thursday evening.

One of the participants told us ‘We are better informed, more confident and have really enjoyed the activity and learning. We have developed trusted relationships and have shared stories, worries and concerns – we now know where to get support when needed. It really is true that a problem shared is a problem halved!’

The BCPP project was a great success - it’s the first time the group has engaged outside its own boundaries. This programme is truly life saving with the support it has been able to give especially in times when physical and mental health organisations and health authorities are overwhelmed because of the global pandemic. The group had a place to access the support they needed.’’

Ian Ellis, Millburn Community Association

Coined the ‘Thursday Night Club’, the BCPP project was a resounding success – the members enjoyed camaraderie and education and I was delighted with the attendance and interaction. Through the sessions, the men found that working outdoors had a positive mood changing effect and that they had developed relationships as well as increasing personal skills and building knowledge.’’

Evan Reid, Pharmacist