James Firkins (MA Creative Writing) has set up an online resource called MAN_AGE which aims to tackle the stigma surrounding men's mental health. This mental health movement is designed to challenge unnecessary societal pressures, creates a community of voices and combats isolation through publishing first hand accounts, illustrations and photography.
James Firkins' story:
James developed his business when he realised that his male friends struggled talking about feelings and mental health, a crucial topic for everyone. They 'didn't want to be a burden'. Increasingly, James found this to be the status quo and while men wanted to talk, they simply didn't know how to go about it. James wanted to change this and used his background in journalism, publishing and design to create a men's mental health magazine encouraging men to talk out. MAN_AGE became an established social enterprise in June 2019, and the website logs 5'471 unique visitors, gathered entirely through grassroots promotion and word of mouth.
What is it like running a business?
"The best aspects include the freedom of choosing where to work from, who to speak with, and how to fill your day. I can manage the graphics, the website, the copy all to my own liking, without seemingly needing to justify it to anyone. The success of the business is on you as the owner and director. There are a lot of jobs to do: promotion, admin, written and visual content, pricing, filing. The myth that you "have no one to answer to" is long dispelled, as it becomes evident that you need to answer to yourself.
"I enjoy running MAN_AGE, and only now I am finding the balance between accountability and taking time to recharge. After all, I am only one person, and my health is my business' health. It's a steep learning curve! But at least I'm not stuck in a grey room, pushing buttons. Trust yourself, results are not immediate. People will come and go; opportunities will come and go; and successes and failures will both come and go - be fair to yourself.
"When I started a magazine that offered men a chance to share their mental health stories - to tackle the fact that men often don't share their feelings - I found (surprise, surprise) that men weren't comfortable sharing their stories. If I could have told myself back in late 2018 that I will have the range of content that I now do in 2020... I might have relaxed a little."
James is passionate to continue encouraging men to talk about their feelings and publishing men's stories surrounding mental health, whether that's overcoming a difficult period in life, or an informative article about what it's like living with a physical or mental health condition, he would love to hear from you. If you're not confident, your article can be published anonymously.