Northumberland sportsman to walk 900 miles for men’s mental health

Andy Caine has set up Passage of Men, to raise awareness for men’s mental health

A 900-mile walking challenge has been set up by former sports industry executive Andy Caine, to get men to talk about their mental health.

The challenge, which has been named Passage of Men, will start at John O’Groats in Scotland and will end at Land’s End in Cornwall, and will take place on October 5.

Andy, aged 45, who is from Northumberland, wants to encourage men across the country to talk about and share their struggles, as well accompany him for sections of the challenge.

Andy himself has struggled with his life circumstances, being in an unhappy marriage, and feeling trapped in a job, therefore he is adamant to make changes to the way men deal with their mental health.

He said: “My happiness was dependent on material possessions, job titles and a purposeless direction in life.

“My body was trying to tell me something was wrong. I was displaying clear signs of stress through unhealthy levels of anger, addiction to exercise, loss of appetite and a poor ability to focus and had difficulty sleeping. The signs were there that something needed to change.

“Like many men, I looked for practical solutions and I made the move to change it all at once.

“I decided to take some time out from my career to work on myself, with the long-term aim of getting back into employment after six months.

Andy further explained that the restrictions of Covid-19, only made things worse as his industry froze and he had to make the difficult decision to move back home at the age of 43.

“The shame of divorce, not living with my two young children, who were three hours away and in lockdown restrictions and with no employment prospects, I ended up signing on for government support.

“All of these things were so far removed from the story I told myself about who I was and created huge mental anguish.

“My usual motivation, confidence and positivity was at an all-time low as symptoms of depression started to deepen and led to thoughts of suicide.

“I became a recluse, even from my own parents in their house. I withdrew from all of my friendships. Feeling isolated in the shame and guilt, like nobody else in the world would know what I was going through.

“Some days I struggled to get out of bed, constantly waking up in a deep, heavy sadness. I couldn’t shift it.

Andy thankfully had a good support network who were able to help him through this dark period of his life. But Andy also hugely thanks and credits men’s support groups for helping him become and feel himself again.

“It wasn’t easy, but focussing on learning who I was inside as opposed to trying to mould myself into the external image I’d created throughout my life, was the first step to finding belief in myself again and making my way back to happiness.

“Although things are changing, for many men, there are still societal and emotional barriers to really being vulnerable and talking about our feelings with friends and family.

“Men’s groups have changed that for me. The opportunity to connect with other men and share incredibly vulnerable experiences in a safe, non-judgemental space is powerful, relatable and liberating.

“They are an invaluable resource in one of the biggest challenges we face as a society today, helping men redefine masculinity in a way that allows for healthy communication, self-awareness, presence and purpose.”

Andy hopes that other men struggling with their mental health will feel inspired to join him on his challenge, where he will gladly provide an opportunity to talk through any struggles.

Andy continues: “As I walk the length of the country, everywhere I stop I hope to hold or attend a men’s group. Where we can share our experiences, our troubles and our joys in life and give men an opportunity to connect.

“There is a mental health crisis in this country, which has been greatly exacerbated by the circumstances of the last two years and we need to tackle it. 125 people a week die by suicide and 75% are men.”

Andy will also be using this challenge as an opportunity to raise awareness and funds for mental health charity CALM (Campaign Against Living Miserably), alongside other mental health charities.

To follow Andy’s journey, or to get in touch, you can visit the Passage of Men instagram page.