Six months ago, MensCraft’s Pete Sharps, Contact Service Coordinator for Norwich, set-up Sustain, a peer support group for men he was working with who were at the edge of crisis and experiencing suicidal thoughts. The success of the group and its impact on the men who’ve been part of it prompted Pete to share his reflections on the story of Sustain to-date, including testimonials from some of the men who’ve benefited from attending.


I’ve been working for MensCraft for the best part of two years now, currently as a co-ordinator for the Contact Service, and when it was formerly known as Prevention and Positive Activities. There are many different things MensCraft does to support men who are struggling with depression, anxiety, isolation, parenting and complex mental health issues, but my focus is suicide prevention.


Now, I’m not a book-smart guy with a university education. Far from it. I have a head full of useless trivia which makes me great at pub quizzes, but less useful at solving life’s bigger problems. However, when it comes to suicidal ideation, I do have lived experience which is invaluable when it comes to engaging with men who are experiencing low mood, leading to crisis, leading to end-of-life thoughts. I’ve been at the bottom of the pitch-black deep hole with no obvious escape route, and of course, the temptation is just to give up. That’s easy. What’s really difficult is finding a reason to keep going. There’s almost always a reason, we sometimes just need a helping hand finding it. The first stage is to reach out and accept that helping hand. This can be a referral to the MensCraft Contact Service from a GP or a care co-ordinator or even by self-referring on our website or calling 0800 208 8382. A Contact Service co-ordinator will get in touch and discuss working with you one-to-one, either in-person or over the phone.


Just under six months ago, we began to pilot a small suicide prevention peer support group in Norwich called Sustain, meeting once a week for an hour and a half. The idea was to include one or two former service users who can be considered ‘in recovery’ and a few current service users who can be considered ‘in crisis’. I think we all underestimated how well this would work, and how much comfort would be gained from simply opening up about our own particular issues and getting unconditional support from others who have been through something similar.


There is total understanding and zero judgement. I’m very proud that Sustain now has an online presence for those unable to attend the in-person group sessions and is being rolled-out across the county with a group already running in Great Yarmouth and a group shortly to begin in Sheringham with plans for other regions, too.


If you, or anyone you know is struggling, reach out and accept that helping hand. It’s the first step. I’ll leave you with some testimonials from current members of the Norwich Sustain group.


“I’m a member of the MensCraft Sustain group Norwich. I’ve been using this service from when it began. I’ve always felt like I was on my own and nobody understands what I’m going through. I’m a suicide survivor and this group has helped me get through some really tough times. I call us the band of brothers and what we have is priceless. My mental health and autism make my life unbearable sometimes, but this service has given me my life back.”.

“I began being supported by MensCraft in March 2023 after thinking about ending my life. I went from my utmost low to feeling good about myself thanks to the help and support of the MensCraft staff. I was asked 6 months ago to support Pete in leading this group. I feel this is an amazing group knowing that men can share their feelings and be listened to in their recovery either having attempted suicide or having thoughts of ending their life. This also helps me as well as those who attend as I feel that this aids my recovery and it’s amazing how a group like this can change lives and encourage people to look to the future.”

“I have been suffering with mental health issues since I was 17 (and) nothing has ever helped me like the Norwich MensCraft Sustain group. Everybody has gone through or is going through similar experiences and understands what it’s like. You cannot believe what it means to have a bond and friendships like this with people who understand and are not judgemental and who listen to and support each other. It’s amazing”.

“I’ve been a member of the Norwich MensCraft Sustain group for about three months. When I first joined I felt that I had nowhere to turn, I couldn’t tell my family what I was going through. I’ve suffered with PTSD for ten years or more but it wasn’t recognised until I hit rock bottom and almost ended it all. A family member forced me to get the GP involved and Wellbeing referred me to MensCraft. I can definitely say had I not gone I wouldn’t be here today. The help the group has given me and the continuing support of the whole group is brilliant.”