by Emalee Gillis, NAMI Spokane Blog Editor.

NAMI Spokane’s new support group for men met for the first time on the third Thursday in January. The next meeting is scheduled for the third Thursday in February, February 15, at 5:30 p.m. in the NAMI office in downtown Spokane. The group is offered free of charge.

The Men’s Peer Support Group is a peer-led support group for those who identify as male and who have experienced symptoms of a mental health condition. Using the experiences of peers, this group helps individuals transition from feeling stuck and lacking control to a place where they can actively navigate their own choices. The support group is designed to ensure each participant has the opportunity to be heard and receive the support they need.

The group is led by Robert Lang who is the Resource Navigator for NAMI Spokane. Lang is pursuing a Master’s in Social Work and Addiction Studies at Washington State University. He has struggled with his mental health and lost a friend to suicide. Lang is driven to destigmatize mental health regardless of age, identity, or political differences.

When asked why NAMI decided to start this new group, Lang referred to statistics from the Institute of Boys and Men. He said that many statistics related to men and boys are going in the wrong direction including life expectancy, mental health outcomes, graduation rates, suicide rates, despair, and others.

Lang explained that men are raised differently than women. Boys are taught from a young age to not show emotion. He said it is sometimes hard and confusing to be a man. In addition, the media displays models of unhealthy males. Toxic masculinity exists in our culture and models of being a healthy grounded man are not readily available.

Lang added that some men’s emotional needs are so shut down that they don’t even have awareness of that part of them. He added that men are becoming aware of the importance of mental health, but there is still a lot of work to do. The new support group provides an opportunity to process with men who identify the same as them.

The structure of the group is an open chat. Participants at the first meeting wanted to incorporate physical activity into the group. If the weather cooperates in February, the next meeting will include a walk together outdoors. Joint physical activity provides an opportunity to develop comradery while working with whatever participants are going through.

One of the benefits of the group according to Lang is reduced social isolation. Social isolation can be an underlying cause of despair. Since the pandemic, people have not met as often and connected with others. This group will provide a space to be open and vulnerable. Lang will ensure that the space is safe by having ground rules including that what is said in the room stays in the room, respecting other people, not talking over people, and no cross-talk.

Men interested in the group can sign up here or just show up on February 15 at Suite 100, 152 S Jefferson Street from 5:30-7:00 p.m.

 

Robert Lang is the Resource Navigator at NAMI Spokane. He is an Airforce veteran and is currently pursuing his Master’s in Social Work and Addiction Studies.

 

Emalee Gillis is a writer and blog editor. She is the author of the memoir Adventures on the Path to Living Well with a Mental Illness and has a related TEDx Talk.