‘Walk and talk’ men’s group is helping men to open up about mental health

Colleagues at Bank of America in Chester have formed a new walking and talking group to help men to open up about their mental health. With 40% of men estimated to not talk about their mental health with another person, the group is pioneering the way for encouraging more conversations and raising money for Mental Health UK whilst doing so.


We spoke to one of the co-organisers, Roy Pennington, Business Support Manager in Global Technology at Bank of America, to find out more about the group.

“It all started a couple of months ago when my colleague Kenny Levens and I started meeting up on Saturdays to walk our dogs, Sonny and Buddy. We walked about six miles, talked about things we’d never usually discuss in the office, and felt great for doing it. Afterwards, we decided to find out if anyone else from the office would want to join us.

Roy and Kenny soon welcomed a third Chester colleague, Craig Antrobus, and began to consider how the group could expand, support other men, and potentially raise funds for Mental Health UK whilst doing so.

“Snowdon (Yr Wyddfa in Welsh) is the highest mountain in Wales and England. There are six different walking routes up, and Kenny came up with the idea of tackling each of them over the course of the next two years. We wanted to widen the invitation to all the men in the Chester office and offer something that would be a genuine physical challenge, get us out of the office, and encourage us to walk and talk together.”

To the pair’s delight the response was overwhelming, with more than 20 colleagues in Chester signing up to participate in a couple of training walks, followed by the first group ascent of Yr Wyddfa.

“We made a pact before we started that we’d all make it to the top as a group and leave nobody behind. Fortunately, we picked the perfect day for it – bright sunshine and t-shirt weather – but it was a good six hours of walking, and some found it harder than others!”

Helped by Rachel Marsh, Senior Partnership Manager for Mental Health UK, the walkers were kitted out with branded t-shirts and a banner to accompany them on their trek to the summit. Each walker also generously donated £25 to participate which, thanks to the bank’s matching gifts programme, meant the group raised £1,000.

Roy told us a bit about the group’s mission to create an emotionally safe environment for a demographic that sometimes doesn’t communicate openly with each other.

We all have things going on in our lives and some of us are going through difficult times, but on the walk, everyone seemed so at ease around each other, talking freely."

– Roy

“It’s a cliché, but men don’t talk enough. We tend to bottle things up and, even when we do chat, sometimes the office isn’t the best place to discuss personal issues.”

For Roy, one of the most positives outcomes of the walk has been the subsequent impact it’s had on office culture, networking and morale.

“There’s been a real buzz around the office since the walk and I’ve had lots of people express an interest in joining us for the next one. Some people spoke to each other for the first time while climbing Yr Wyddfa and since then everyone is definitely talking more, which is what it’s all about.”

The group is planning its second Yr Wyddfa walk in September, and looks forward to continuing to build a trusted space for men to talk going forwards.

Find out more about men’s mental health and what you can do to support other people to talk more.

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