Newport City Radio

Thursday, November 13, 2014
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Two brothers from Newport are to star in Time to Change Wales’ #justbeafriend campaign, which will be running throughout this year’s rugby Autumn Internationals, and hopes to encourage men to talk about their mental health.

Dean Pesticcio, 46, from St Mellons, and his brother Gary, 44, from Crosskeys, are to be involved in one of a series of videos that see men talking about the importance of discussing their mental health, and the difference it has made to their lives.

The videos are to be released alongside the distribution of 250,000 beermats in pubs across Wales, which include simple messages encouraging men to start a conversation about mental health and to “just be a friend”. As well as this, there’ll be posters and postcards on display throughout the country.

Dean has suffered from Obsessive Compulsive Disorder (OCD) from a young age, and often turns to Gary as a source of support. For instance, Dean explains how a phone call or a text means he knows Gary is there for him:

“Knowing he’s there and that he understands what I’m going through makes a big difference.

“Talking about my mental health problems is imperative. It offers me a release and helps me rationalise the thoughts I am having and gets things off my chest.”

Mental health isn’t the foundation of their conversation, though:

“Gary and I still do all sorts of things together, and talk about everything, not just mental health. It helps me feel more normal.”

Agreeing, his brother Gary says:

“Talking about something he is passionate about helps…He’s particularly into his motorbikes and I know that chatting to him about that helps take his mind off his symptoms.

“It’s very important that people with mental illness can speak openly to someone they trust…While it may not cure how someone is feeling, it helps them to work through issues and relieves that pressure. Just getting things off their chest can help a great deal.”

Although it might be popular belief that women may talk more openly than men, there is also evidence that supports these gender differences.

A Public Attitude Survey conducted in 2014, which used 400 interviews and spoke to people in Wales aged 16+, found that 24 per cent of men say they do not know the facts about mental health – double the figure for women (12 per cent).

Another survey, taken in 2012, found 86 per cent of men would turn to family and friends for help if they had a mental health problem – slightly fewer than women, where 87 per cent would turn to friends and family.

The #justbeafriend campaign looks to use the upcoming rugby as an excuse for men to get together and start a conversation about their mental health.

Working with a sporting theme, the videos have been shot in recognisable locations across Cardiff, such as the Cardiff Devils ice rink.

The Welsh Football Trust and Cardiff Blues have both expressed their support for the campaign; with Neil Ward, Chief Executive of The Welsh Football Trust, saying:

“Every player in a team needs the support of those around him, just as people suffering from mental illness need the support of their friends”

Time to Change Wales, led by Gofal, Hafal and Mind Cymru, is a national campaign to end stigma and discrimination faced by people with mental health problems in Wales. Funded by the Big Lottery, Comic Relief and the Welsh Government, it is the first campaign of its kind in Wales.