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CALM (Campaign against living miserably) is a national charity dedicated to helping men and women of all ages through difficult situations. Having launched their latest campaign ‘Man down’, we speak to CALM’s campaign co-ordinator Simon Howes to find out more.

CALM originally launched in 2000 and then became a national charity in 2006. How did CALM originally start?

Initially it was a health pilot. It eventually became clear that some men didn’t identify with or weren’t necessarily aware of the different options out there such as helplines, so CALM was created and developed as a brand. It originally launched in Manchester and then was launched in Liverpool in 2000 at the nightclub CREAM. It was very much about creating something that was an option, particularly for young men, and to get that space to work out what was going on in their own lives. It helped them to figure out what they moight need to do or who else they could speak to, so that was really the pilot scheme. We were dedicated to what CALM was doing so as the pilot was winding up, we decided that by setting up a charity we could continue this work.


How do CALM aim to help men overcome difficult situations in their lives?

Well the first letter of CALM stands for campaign, which is very much at its heart. It’s about getting people thinking about the topic, challenging misconceptions and what we do in terms of helping people is very much virtual. So there’s the help line and there’s our text service as well. Our website has a lot of new articles on it with a wealth of information. When people are writing, whether this be anonymously or under their own names, they are talking about their own experiences. I think one of the key things for a lot of guys is that it’s quite a big step to pick up a phone or talk to someone, and by writing online it is an easy and accessible thing to do. They can read other people’s stories and very quickly realise they are not the only person to have felt this way, and this normalises it and reassures them that other people have come out of the other side of it. It really starts to bring some hope to the men we help, but we help men and women of all ages.


You’ve mentioned that campaigns are at the heart of CALM. One of your campaigns is called ‘Man Down’ which raises awareness of male suicide rates in Sefton. Could you tell us a bit more about the campaign?

We got the opportunity to develop a campaign in Sefton with the guys there, and we found that even across the country, these rates amongst 40 and 50 year olds are actually quite high. They said that they wanted to work on a campaign within Sefton, so we helped develop the concept and the promotion of the campaign with clubs such as Southport FC. It’s very much about reaching that older demographic with a message that empowers them to look out for somebody or speak to a friend. All those kind of messages I think are really important. Refusing to be a ‘man down’ is about saying things might be tough right now but I can get through it and get to the other side, and about looking out for your mates.

Some of the Southport FC players have had ‘selfies’ taken holding the campaign slogan ‘I am a man and I refuse to be a man down’. What impact do you hope that this will have for the campaign?

There’s a lot of people going through a tough time at the moment, and this is all about helping men realise that there are options out there that can help them get through. Spreading that message through people in local communities such as Southport FC helps it get to the audience that we are trying to reach.


What future campaigns are CALM working towards?
One campaign is called ‘The year of the male’ which we launched as a yearlong campaign  to engage in discussions around men and men’s roles, re-examining and challenging assumptions. We look at men’s roles in family life, men’s roles in the workplace, men in the media, how we are portrayed and the messages that arise from this. It’s a real wide discussion and we want to encourage these debates to go on. 


    Sarah's posts By Sarah O' Hara



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