Men are notoriously difficult to deal with when it comes to healthcare, often reluctant to discuss issues regarding their health, much to the distress of healthcare professionals. But four Building Community Pharmacy Partnership (BCPP) projects are currently seeking to address this problem….

Colin Harrison, Harrison Healthcare, Donegall Pass, Belfast

Harrison Healthcare is well known for taking a proactive stance in improving health in its local community. Recently, pharmacy contractor, Colin Harrison took the lead in a new pharmacy project which aimed to support young men to explore their health and improve their knowledge attitude and behaviours around mental health issues.

‘Our primary aim from the outset,’ says Colin, ‘was to reduce stigma and discrimination in our local areas and improve confidence and ability and support networks for these young men. We decided to work with young men from South Belfast and began by meeting them on a one-to-one basis to ascertain their views as to how we could help them.’

The project was based around twelve pharmacy-led sessions and twelve co-facilitated sessions involving the pharmacy and Brian Armstrong from Alternatives, South Belfast.

‘Our initial session was a fishing trip,’ Colin continues. ‘The session, which served as a great icebreaker, immediately showed us that many of the young men were concerned with gaining employment. Issues such as interview techniques were of great interest to them and so this was our first areas of focus.’

‘Over the course of the next eleven weeks, the course took the form of alternating practical and theory weeks and we worked to improve employability skills. We were so delighted with their response and, in fact, some of them got jobs, with others getting apprenticeships at O’Hare McGovern!

‘In addition to the employment issue, we also covered healthy eating – and took the guys to Pure Gym in Adelaide Street, who provided classes free of charge. We averaged about 15 or 20 young men a week, a pretty good turnout. ‘

We also encouraged the guys to do gardening, not just in a community garden – but also for their elderly neighbours.

‘To encourage the young men to complete the course we’ve organised a Bear Grylls-type survival course in the Mournes in September, which will be a great experience for everyone! Overall, I think this was an extremely worthwhile project, which not only improved the guys’ health awareness and increased their self esteem, but also contributed to their community awareness.’

An Riocht

Mark Breen, Gordons Chemist, Greencastle Street, Kilkeel

Kilkeel (Glenravel) is a small rural area within a fishing village with a high suicide rate. For its BCPP project, the local pharmacy – Gordons Chemist – worked with retired men from differing backgrounds to address issues such as depression. The men became involved in making friends, enjoying days out and exploring what it means to be a part of a community.

Mark Breen, the pharmacist at Gordons Chemist in Kilkeel, was well aware of the task facing him and his team.

We were intent on building partnerships between our pharmacy and a core group of 20-30 older community members to enable them to better understand their health, and – ultimately – how to begin to address those issues.

‘The project’s Lead Officer – Joseph Donnan – began by recruiting and engaging a core group of older men to work with me in the design and delivery of a 24-session health and wellbeing programme.

‘Within the programme, I’m core to leading and delivering ten sessions that reflect on issues identified by the group. These have included issues such as the role of the pharmacist, over-the-counter medication, long-term conditions, mental health, sleep, alcohol use etc.

‘I was also supported to co-attend with a minimum of four other organisations, eg, PIPS, Citizens Advice Bureau, a fitness instructor, Aware Defeat, Cancer Focus, and a therapist. This sought to build the support network available to the partners and participants, and also seek to broaden the understanding of wider issues that could impact the group, such as mobility, finance, loneliness, grief etc.  

‘There’s no doubt that the project has created a strong partnership between the local men and the pharmacist so that they feel able to turn to me and the pharmacy team for support and advice.’

Newtownabbey Men’s Shed

Helen Pollen, Well Pharmacy, Rathcoole, Belfast

The Men’s Shed is now widely recognised as a project which promotes the social inclusion, health and welfare of older men. Recently, pharmacist Helen Pollen from Well Pharmacy, facilitated a Level 1 project in the Newtownabbey Men’s Shed, where she delivered health-related programme over six sessions.

‘Many of the men attend the Men’s Shed on a regular basis,’ says Heather, ‘but they’re usually occupied by activities such as woodwork or crafts, so this was something completely different for them. It tended to be older men who attended.

‘The topics were decided by the group and included: alcohol misuse, smoking, prescription drugs, nutrition and health, and mental health/mindfulness. Two of the sessions were also co-facilitated with another organisation to offer a support network of services to the group.

We wanted to provide a warm and friendly meeting place in which we could hold a range of activities, to preserve and protect men’s health. We were totally focussed on working in partnership with other local organisations to embed these men in their communities. Through the Men’s Shed they already share practical skills and have a workshop which is available if they want to take on a small project’

‘The sessions were focussed on both physical and emotional needs. For one session we brought in a Cognitive Behavioural Therapist, Rosie Donnelly, from Rethink CBT Services and she provided them with mindfulness sessions.

‘On another, we brought along a nutritionist, who showed them how to make risotto and talked to them about a healthy diet.

‘For my part, I talked mainly about health issues but also carried out blood pressure and blood sugar checks, so there was a practical side to the project too.’

‘Overall, the project was well attended, with a minimum of fifteen men on any one night. The feedback was very good and so I was able to see the value that a course like this could bring to the local community – men in particular.’

Street Soccer NI

Richard Addy, J McGregor’s Chemist, Botanic Avenue, Belfast

Street Soccer NI is a football project for disadvantaged groups such as homeless people, substance abuse sufferers, refugees, asylum seekers, and long-term unemployed. The initiative provides free weekly football sessions and education, including coaching courses. There are currently two leagues: one in Belfast and one in Derry.

Recently, Street Soccer NI became involved in a BCPP project, which was designed to reach out to a core group of twelve-fifteen men, to encourage team building and support them in improving their health and living conditions.

Pharmacist Richard Addy, from J McGregor’s Chemist, is offering the men support based around housing/employability/general health and making lasting and useful contact within the area.

‘This course comprises eight sessions and will co-facilitate a further twelve with relevant organisations, such as FASA, GEMS and the East Belfast Mission,’ Richard told PiF. ‘Most of the young men are aged between 20 and 25 and the project was centred around the 2016 Homeless World Cup.

‘In addition to playing football with the guys, I also work in conjunction with them, giving presentations on topics which are relevant to them.

‘I began with healthy eating, but, as I got to know them, I became more aware of the issues that primarily affected them. One of the most obvious was depression.

‘One of the main things that have struck me in working with this group of men is that stereotypes don’t always ring true. Although they are all homeless and are affected by circumstances that are often unfamiliar to most, they are still young men, who are friendly and enthusiastic, who are enjoying football and who are now taking advantage of a health promotion initiative, which can only be of benefit to them.’

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