The club that is quite literally ‘fighting’ to combat male suicide. Rob Griffin reports on a novel fundraiser that took place in Hastings…
Martial artists in Hastings have raised £1,000 to help combat worryingly high levels of male suicides across the country.
Five black belts taught masterclasses at the Gracie Barra Hastings Brazilian Jiu Jitsu academy in exchange for donations to the Men Don’t Talk campaign.
Paul Bridges, Ali Bayley, Owen Elphick, Mark Dayrell and Sam Sharples each taught a selection of their favourite techniques. The packed event, which took place at the academy’s Earl Street home, highlighted how 84 men each week take their own lives – adding up to more than 4,000 every year.
Paul Bridges, head instructor at GB Hastings, said many students had first-hand experience of losing loved ones in such tragic circumstances: “It’s a subject that’s very close to all of our hearts – and we are overwhelmed by the generosity shown by everyone who attended,” he said.
The event was supported by Buckswood School – whose student, Charlie Mepham, ran the raffle, as well as Rye Chocolates, Freedom Leisure, Broken Arrow magazine and Mowgli restaurant.
The money raised will be spent on counselling sessions for vulnerable men that will encourage them to share their problems and feelings. Jason Lawrence, founder of Men Don’t Talk (www.mendonttalk.org), which is a not for profit social enterprise run by volunteers, was thrilled by the day’s success.
“A very special thanks to all who attended, all who donated, and all who will continue to promote talking and reaching out in challenging times,” he said.
Mr Lawrence insisted mental illness shouldn’t be a taboo subject – and pledged to continue raising awareness of conditions affecting men and women: “No matter how big or strong someone is, it doesn’t make them any less vulnerable,” he added.
There were 6,213 suicides in the UK and Republic of Ireland during 2017 – 4,694 men and 1,519 women, according to the annual suicide statistics report from The Samaritans. The study, which revealed men were three times more likely to take their own lives than women, said the highest suicide rate in the UK was for males aged 45-49.
“We must continue to target expertise and resources at preventing men from taking their own lives,” it concluded.
Gracie Barra Hastings, which has been running since the mid-1990s, has forged a reputation in the town for hosting events to raise money for local charities. It raised £650 for Hastings Foodbank from an interclub tournament – and then put on a wrestling masterclass evening that made £300 for the Demelza Hospice Care for Children.
BJJ has established itself as one of the world’s most effective martial arts due to its combination of throws, joint locks and ground-fighting techniques. The academy, whose students range from three-years-old to 77-years-old, runs classes every day.
If you are interested in giving it a go, then ring Bridges on: 07967 659867 or visit www.graciebarrahastings.com.
Pictures courtesy of Noah Moralis Photography