A NEW project is set to boost wellbeing in Bradford’s young men and boys, breaking the stigma of a topic that is “often brushed under the carpet”.

Since the beginning of the pandemic, the Millan Centre, based in Manningham, has been creating several safe spaces for people of all ages, backgrounds and faiths to speak about mental health and access help.

A survey by Healthwatch Bradford & District found many Bradfordians were experiencing loneliness, the death of loved ones, suicidal thoughts and anxiety.

There has been a rise in the need for mental support across all age groups, the report found.

When those behind the research analysed comments, 21 per cent specifically referred to Covid-19 as the main topic.

Vice chair Saliha Sadiq and chairperson Elizabeth Hellmich set up the successful Emerald project for girls and Safer Than Ever project for women during the first lockdown.

Saliha also offered counselling on a voluntary basis in Urdu and Punjabi, saving many lives in the district.

But there was a gap in those who felt able to talk and Saliha knew there was “a barrier” in the way.

Saliha told the Telegraph & Argus: “During these counselling sessions the girls and women who were getting counselled were worried about mental health of the boys or men in the household or within extended families. I was asked if I could offer them counselling.

“Over the years men have been suffering in silence due to the stigma and a barrier to mental health so therefore have been reluctant to come forward and access emotional support.

“This could be due to various reasons i.e. worried about being labelled as a a failure, weak or unmasculine.

“I am aware that mental health has been an issue for decades but often ignored or brushed under the carpet.

"This is more seen with young boys and men. During the pandemic this has been highlighted by the family members and the community. Since Brave Minds Project has been set up we have had several self referrals.

"The counsellors have been extremely busy.

"There has been rise of deaths and more young boys are feeling suicidal and low in mood due to lockdown and feel socially isolated.

“I want all of us to work together and encourage each other to access counselling or any emotional support and break the stigma and barriers attached to mental health.

"I am aware this won't happen over night but let's take small steps.

“If you need counselling please come forward and contact Millan Centre.”

Bradford Telegraph and Argus:

Elizabeth added: “Mental health is looked down as weak and shameful, sadly young men are overlooked. I am pleased to be part of this project to overcome the barriers and stigma attached to mental health.”

The centre will be helping people find simple ways to care for their wellbeing, including the power of reading.

A number of books have been donated by the Bradford Stories Project.

Bradford Telegraph and Argus:

Alongside counselling, Millan Centre is promoting reading literature from a young age, developing children's reading and understanding skills.

Little Freddie, pictured above, helped decide the name for the project.

He said: “I think it’s good that there is somewhere for boys to talk to someone.”