Under the Bridge session at Ilkeston Viaduct.

“A macho man is a real man” is what Trekkah’s grandmother used to say to him when he was just a little boy. Now, Trekkah Benjamin is the lead coordinator of the Under the Bridge Project – an all-male group that explores the positive mental health impacts of spending time in blue spaces. 

“I’ve spent a large portion of my life trying to be a macho, red-blooded man.

“Now, I know that machoism actually isn’t what makes a man”

Trekkah Benjamin, lead coordinator

Blue spaces is a term used to describe bodies of water or areas near water. This can include lakes, rivers, beaches, bays and more.

“Studies have found that blue spaces have major physical and mental health benefits” explains Trekkah.

Trekkah Benjamin is the lead coordinator for the Under The Bridge project

Trekkah founded the Under the Bridge project based in Nottingham. It born out of a rise in mental health statistics that showed that more men are suffering from depression and anxiety following the Covid-19 Pandemic.

“I think that after lockdown, a lot of people stayed working at home. But, for a lot of men their job was their only way to socialise with their friends.

“There is definitely a stigma around men reaching out to their male friends to meet up.

“So, without the human connection that you make at work, these young men who are so determined to appear tough and rugged very quickly lose all connection with the outside world”

Trekkah explains that the project is aimed to empower men to connect with the natural surroundings and form new support networks.

The Under The Bridge Choir practice for their next performance under Willford Toll Bridge

The Under the Bridge Choir is an amateur, all male choir that regularly performs underneath a variety of bridges.

Composer, Edward Reisner said “We have created safe spaces for Nottingham’s men to talk about their mental health and also to spend time on the water, participating in collective, creative programmes and music making sessions”

“Our choir is at the heart of everything we deliver, we have held a number of public performances where the community is invited to come along and sing with us”

As well as a group choir, the sessions involve a range of watersports such as kayaking, canoeing, paddle boarding and wakeboarding.

Now with more men coming clean about their struggles with mental health, the community is increasing the number of programmes it offers.

“The culture of masculinity means that men and boys must adapt and sort of tough it out rather than taking a step back and seeking help” said Michael Kehler, a professor of Masculinities studies at the University of Calgary.

“This culture of silence means that young men have been reluctant to speak up on topics regarding their own safety”

“It has created an environment where men and boys feel pressured to be silent about there own mental health”

Michael Kehler, Professor at the University of Calagary

The Under the Bridge project is hopefully the first of many here in Nottingham, offering an alterative to more traditional male-oriented spaces such as the local pub.

“I hope to support more projects like this in the future” Trekkah said

“where men of all ages can hopefully build new definitions of what it is to be a man”

DEPRESSION IN YOUNG MEN

  • Suicide is the biggest killer of men under the age of fifty in the UK
  • It is estimated at least 105,000 men go to hospital each year having attempted suicide
  • Suicides in the UK among young men are now 67% higher than in 1982, according to the mental health charity, Mind.
  • In the UK, the male suicide rate was 16.1 per 100,000 compared to the female suicide rate of 5.3 per 100,000