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A man who set up a support group for men struggling with depression and addiction is up for the top title at West Midlands Police and Crime Commissioner’s Outstanding Citizens awards.

Jon Mansell, aged 43, runs free drop-in group, Ex Boozehounds at the Hope Centre in Halesowen. He also writes a popular blog, detailing his own experiences with addiction and mental health and using them to help others.

Mr Mansell is up for the Outstanding Citizen award and will find out if he has won at The REP in Birmingham on July 13.

He said: “The staff from the Hope Centre got in touch a year ago after reading my blog and said that I could help there as they had some men who were desperate.

“Some days in the group there are two people, other days there are eight. It gives men the chance to focus on their demons and talk through their issues. We help each other through different things and relax. We support them and then they step up and their confidence builds and they strengthen.

“There is a lot of pressure on men. Take me for example, people say that by 43 I should be married, with kids, a 4X4 and a semi-detached house and good job – if you don’t have those, you’re a failure and that pressure is unhealthy. I am against that whole ‘just pull yourself together’ attitude but it does feel as though things are changing. I’m in the process of setting up another group too to help people because people can feel complete loneliness and isolation – these groups can help fill in the gaps.

“My own experiences definitely help me understand people. I suffer with depression and alcoholism and I wish I had a similar group when I was experiencing things. Although, would I have gone for it? Male pride is a complex thing. An offer would have been helpful though.

“I am a normal person, not a suit. I am me and I am here to help. Attitudes are changing and we are moving in the right direction in general. I want to fight against the stigma and be upfront, honest and not ashamed. I was chuffed to bits to get the nomination. I got goosebumps down by spine. I appreciate this pat on the back.”

West Midlands Police and Crime Commissioner David Jamieson said: “The awards are our chance to say ‘thank you’ to those people who make the West Midlands a better place.

“Jon is putting his head above the parapet to help a group of people so often overlooked. There is this stereotype that men need to be strong 100 per cent of the time and are not expected to suffer from mental health issues. However, we all know this is not the case and I’d like to congratulate Jon for working to address this imbalance and offer support and guidance.”

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