A Safe Place For Men & Their Emotions
By Sergio Burns
Being in a room with men sharing their emotions is – traditionally – like being in a room of stoic silence. Few men, even in these renaissance times, feel they can openly share or open up about how they are feeling. Yet, it is essential that they do speak about their feelings, it is healthier and we know it can save lives.
Fit Ayrshire Dads, a public page on Facebook, founded by Kevin Brown, has sought to reverse this and offer members a place where they can talk about themselves and their feelings in a safe and positive environment.
When I catch up with Kevin he is walking a little strangely. Hardly surprising because, as the father of two immediately explains, he has just run up and down Goat Fell three times.
“The guys’ said if we hit 1000 members, (and) this is when we had 500 members, Kevin’s got to do a forfeit,” He told me as he eased himself into the seat opposite. “I am…the person they identify as the founder, if people can take something from me then that’s amazing, humbling, but amazing. I said right okay you name the challenge…they came up with this horrible idea”
Kevin completed the challenge in seven hours and the group raised £1500 for the Scottish Association for Mental Health (SAMH).
He nods at the memory, reveals he has agreed to do another forfeit when the the page has 2000 members. He laughs, his face lights up, the lines around his eyes becoming increasingly defined, mumbles something about what fiendish plan they will have for him then!
Brown’s own journey started in January when tipping the scales the heaviest he had ever been and feeling completely out of shape, he determined to do something about it. After years of battling injuries, he felt his mood was not good and resolved to get out and do something to change things. To provide motivation he immediately signed himself up for a couple of tough mudders and the Scottish half marathon!
It was only when Kevin contacted one of his friends that he realised he wasn’t alone with his feelings His friend admitted that he was ‘rock bottom’, and was sitting around doing nothing. It was this encounter that made Kevin realise that there was no place for men who were feeling low to go and share with others.
“So, I wanted to attempt to change that,” He explained. “I wanted to make a place where men could come and know that if they shared and they opened up, it would be 100 per cent positive, it would be a completely safe place to do it.”
The result was the Fit Ayrshire Dads Facebook page which has taken everyone by surprise including Kevin. The group clocked up 1500 members in October, and is edging up toward 2000 (and another forfeit for Kevin?).
Insisting that the page is always 100 per cent positive, Kevin wanted to make it a central point for men looking to get their lives back on track mentally and physically. It is a simple message, get yourself right and the rest will fall into place.
“Getting these guys to really start to understand looking after themselves,” he starts again. “It is amazing how we have seen these guys coming on. Some of these guys’ stories… leave you speechless. These guys are sharing, and they are saying I want to start now, help me. Then we basically get them involved. We have support runs happening Tuesday, Wednesday and Thursday. We’ve got something like 20 to 30 guys showing up at Eglinton Park on a Saturday morning, we’ve got cycling groups, we take our guys to ‘Hot Yoga’ on a Wednesday night. We’ve got a hillwalking group, we’ve got them doing so much stuff.”
As the group has grown Kevin has developed, what he describes as, an admin group to help him organise all the activities for the members.
“We’ve got a group of five of us,” Kevin explained. “It is an admin team that are friends, people that I respect and trust and are aligned to my way of thinking.”
Kevin also revealed that Fit Ayrshire Dads had recently won a Power of Sport award. Kevin insisted that he didn’t want it to be about him, it was, nevertheless, a fitting tribute to the group and Kevin Brown.
“I think there is power there,” he says of the movement he started. “When the word gets out to the wider communities, the chance is there for others to take the baton and carry it to all the other communities of Scotland. When you actually look at it in its most raw context… we have made a safe place.”
No one is going to disagree with that.