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Men need support with mental health, says South Kesteven district councillor for Grantham Earlesfield

Column by Lee Steptoe, Labour member for Grantham Earlesfield on South Kesteven District Council

It’s not ‘coming home’ and it was heartbreaking, especially after getting so close and losing on the lottery of penalties.

However, this young, highly talented England team, led by the articulate Gareth Southgate, has appealed to the hearts of the nation with its progressive patriotism.

Bukayo Saka, Jadon Sancho and Marcus Rashford were racially abused after missing penalties against Italy Picture: Nick Potts/PA
Bukayo Saka, Jadon Sancho and Marcus Rashford were racially abused after missing penalties against Italy Picture: Nick Potts/PA

The racist abuse suffered by the three black players that missed penalties is disgusting and a reminder that a small minority have truly repugnant views. When I went to football as a teenager, in the 1980s, the racist hostility was overtly aimed at players, including appalling monkey noises, actually in the stadiums. It is now generated from the cesspit of anonymous social media accounts. The good news is that such abuse is the last gasps of the past. The St George Cross now represents diversity and tolerance.

There will have been many males (and females) feeling very low about the defeat and its aftermath. Men’s mental health is a silent killer and that’s why I’ve been so heartened about two local developments. The Place2bee has been formed by Susan Swinburn’s South Lincolnshire Blind Society and is working to combat male suicide and depression and is providing drop in sessions on Mondays and Thursdays. Volunteers will be trained as mental health first aiders.

As a veteran teacher I witness the endemic problem of poor mental health in teenagers, obviously compounded by Covid. Boys are still far less likely to seek help than girls - ‘boys don’t cry’, which is a traditionally toxic view. The stigma around mental health issues of past generations is thankfully fading, but there is still so much more to do and resources needed to do it. I am really looking forward to getting involved with Place2bee in a personal capacity and encourage other men to do the same.

The second positive local development is the motion on mental health passed unanimously by SKDC, which will sign us up to the Mental Health Challenge for Local Authorities and appoint a Mental Health Champion from elected members, who will lead a cross-party working party to support positive mental wellbeing in our community. This will work proactively with Lincolnshire County Council and the voluntary sector. A range of councillors have done some great work on this, helping to break down more traditional ‘stiff upper lip’ views.

We live in tough times and these are small but crucial steps in tackling a huge and growing problem.

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