Men’s Health Week: How Connect Fermanagh provides support and connection for locals experiencing isolation


Men’s Health Week, which runs every year in the week before Father’s Day, has been focusing on the theme of ‘Take Action on Covid-19’ for 2020. Since its launch on April 1, Connect Fermanagh has been able to provide support to over 100 individuals across Fermanagh, with 33 per cent of those availing of the service being male.

Connect Fermanagh was developed by the Fermanagh Trust Team in response to the isolation faced by many who had to shield or felt the need to self-isolate due to the coronavirus pandemic. Sonya Johnston, who leads and co-ordinates the Connect Fermanagh service, said: “We are chatting to men who are struggling with bereavement, men who are carers, men dealing with chronic pain or long-term health conditions, men who are homeless, men struggling with anxiety and men who are feeling lonely and missing their family and friends.”

“We are enhancing the quality of life for men aged 18 plus in Fermanagh who are experiencing loneliness, we encourage the men we talk to, to think about their lifestyle and daily routine, we encourage them to seek opportunities for socialising and we’ve been able to support men on an individual basis and help them to develop coping skills, strategies for developing healthier lifestyles ad connections.” added Sonya.

While many of the same difficulties are experienced by men and women, some difficulties and influences on mental health may be more relevant for men. Societal expectations about how men ‘should’ behave includes the expectation that men shouldn’t show their emotions, they should be strong and in control, however research suggests that when men do seek help, if the help offered meets their needs and is easily accessed, they are more likely to engage.

Anyone over 18 years of age who would like a call, can simply telephone 02866320230 seven days per week from 9.30am to 2pm and request a call. Through the provision of friendly phone-calls Connect Fermanagh supports the emotional health and well-being of all their services users.

Sonya advised: “It’s really hard for men to ask for help but those who have, have been telling us how much they look forward to their chats and we have seen improvements in their mental health over the last few months. If you don’t reach out for help when you need it things tend only to get worse.”

Connect Fermanagh have recruited a constantly growing team of volunteers, both men and women. Volunteers are equipped with local knowledge of Fermanagh, its resources and supports, they access daily support from the Fermanagh Trust Staff who have a wide range of connections to local and regional mental health supports to whom they can signpost. Connect Fermanagh believe it is important that they continue to recruit male volunteers as some men seeking calls prefer a man to chat to. Sonya believes it is important that Connect Fermanagh to have male volunteers to reflect the varied ages and interests of their male service users.

One gentleman receiving calls stated: “I hadn’t spoken to someone for so long and I was in a really bad way and you know, talking to you yesterday and A* today just lifted me. I got up this morning and I felt mighty, I’ll never forget what you done for me, I wanted to ring today and say thank you.”

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