MENders is an open concept support group for anyone who identifies as male. Our original, in-person meetings were located in Central Massachusetts. We migrated meetings onto virtual platforms in order to continue to provide support during the pandemic. MENders values and protects the privacy of all participants. We’ve created a safe, confidential space where all topics are welcome, where all viewpoints can be heard, and where we have been able to talk about really challenging issues.
We also end up laughing our butts off before the meeting is over! We simply NEVER could have anticipated all of the topics that come up in a MENders meeting! The language can get coarse, of course, but along with the color and the candor, there’s a whole bunch of care and connection, too. We’ve normalized talking openly about mental health, trauma, addictions, parenting challenges, and relationship struggles. MENders is supported by Heywood Healthcare through a suicide prevention grant. Men can self-refer, there’s no need for insurance, we keep only enough contact information for participants so that we can send meeting reminders and links (via text or email.)
Pearls in the Rubble
While meeting in person had certain benefits (it’s hard to give a guy a pat on the back in a Zoom room) we quickly realized that meeting virtually eliminated the need for reliable transportation, gas money, childcare, and lots of other barriers that had been keeping guys away from the meeting. It’s easier to click on a link if you’re feeling a little unsure about MENders, as compared to driving to Leominster, finding a parking space, and finding a meeting room on the 2nd floor of the library. That version of joining a meeting gave a guy WAY too many chances to talk himself out of coming!
Need to leave early or really feeling uneasy? Click the leave button! And because the meetings are easier to join, I think people find it easier to stay. Just knowing I could leave in a second lowers my anxiety about being there. Meeting virtually has really been one of the “pearls in the rubble” of this challenging period. We even hold a monthly Movie Night and a monthly Virtual Game Night!