Two past participants of our Third Space programme are heading up a mental health campaign in a bid to encourage men to speak out about how they feel.

Oisin O’Donnell and Martin McDonagh, who are both 19 years-old, took the brave decision to share their own personal struggles in a move to help others.   

Working together, they came up with their ‘Man Down’ concept which aims to dismiss the idea that men are expected to ‘man up’ when things get difficult. 

The pair launched their ‘Man Down’ campaign to coincide with World Mental Health Day on Thursday, October 10.   This year’s theme was the prevention of suicide which made the timing of their event even more fitting. 

The young men first came up with the initiative when taking part in Third Space, a good relations programme delivered in partnership by Extern and Verbal. 

Over the course of six months, Oisin and Martin worked with project workers on creating a short digital film.  However, keen to have their voices heard, these inspirational men did not stop there.  They wanted their positive message to reach as many young men and women as possible.  After securing a grant from the ‘Change Something Fund,’ they have been able to take their campaign one step further. 

Working with local artist, Rebecca Duddy, they have designed a wall mural, which is currently on display outside Verbal. They have also designed wristbands which includes their ‘Man Down’ logo alongside Lifeline’s 24hour helpline number. 

Following their launch, Oisin and Martin hope to engage with youth groups in and around the city to promote their message. 

Revealing why they decided to focus on men’s mental health, Oisin O’Donnell said: “From our own personal experiences, Martin and I know how difficult it is to speak out and to admit that you are not feeling ok. That’s hard and it takes guts. A lot of the time, men especially, feel that they can’t talk about their emotions or they feel that they have to be strong but they don’t. 

He continued: “I have seen first-hand how struggling with mental health issues can devastate families and friendships.  What we hope to achieve through this campaign is to encourage men and women to speak out and to ask for the help and support that they need. We want to spread this message far and wide and we are grateful that Third Space and The Change Something Fund has given the opportunity to do this,” said Oisin. 

Claire Harkin, Third Space Manager for Verbal has praised both men for the journey they’ve made so far.

“Digital storytelling lies at the heart of Verbal’s work within the Third Space Project- offering young people a voice and a platform to share that voice. From the very beginning, Martin and Oisin were determined that they wanted to create a digital piece on mental health to encourage people, particularly young men, to speak out about what they are going through.  All their hard work and dedication to the project has paid off. We knew that they had created something very powerful, but it’s their determination to help others that has been the driving force in the pushing this campaign forward. They should be very proud of all they’ve achieved.”

Joanna Tarach, Third Space Manager for Extern has also commended both men. 

“Extern is an organisation which always puts people at the centre of its work, and Third Space is no exception. We have helped to build things like resilience, self-confidence and important social interaction skills – all of which are vital as they develop into young adults and make their mark in the world. 

“The Man Down campaign and what it aims to do are all the more authentic because these are the voices of our young people which are being heard – openly, directly and honestly. And if the Man Down message can help even one other young person to seek the help they need, then that will be a remarkable achievement,” said Joanna.