Dads like football, beer, barbecues and DIY. But deep inside, they may be struggling with a variety of issues, such as stress, depression and anxiety. Dadsnet combines the two together, allowing men to meet up with their peers, have a chat and enjoy a kickabout in a bid to reduce male depression and suicide in the Lancashire area.
When Graham Sims, of Preston, became a dad in 2016, he felt he needed advice and joined the international Dadsnet group.
The 39-year-old then created a local group which has been running for 18 months.
As well as starting a break-out Kickabout football meet-up in Kirkham, Blackburn, and more recently Lancaster, the Lancashire affiliation gives men a space to talk freely about their concerns.
It has also joined forces with Maternity Voices Partnerships, Better Births and the NHS maternity ward at Sharoe Green to help improve services and give dads a voice.
Graham, who has a two-year-old daughter Chloe and has been married to Nikki for seven years, says: “I came across Dadsnet when I became a father and needed advice.
“One of my main issues was health as I am overweight and didn’t have a very big circle of friends.
“I joined the international group and got loads of helpful advice and chats. So I wanted to give back and so I became an admin and ambassador before setting up my local group.
“We are a peer to peer support group for dads only. We encourage dads to open up about combat stress, anxiety parental issues, social anxiety, depression and many more.
“Just under a year ago, I created Kickabout as a way to get dads out the house, make friends and get a bit fitter at the same time.
“We started with a couple of lads on a local park and grew in numbers, but we found paying for a nice pitch expensive.
“Then along came Team HQ, who saw what we were doing and wanted to help so they provided a sponsorship so we could play at a nice venue at mill farm in Kirkham and only pay a small fee towards it.
“And they will also provide us with balls and bibs to help out. This was such a nice gesture and it helps to attract new dads to come and join in.
“Since then we have starred a Kickabout in Blackburn and Lancaster and one will be starting in Wyre.
“We are also always looking for dads to join up and start their own local Kickabout to get more dads out.
“As well as that we have meets scattered all over Lancashire.
“We do have meetups that include mums, children and sometimes just dads. We are based on Facebook and only allow dads - no professionals or mums.
“We have regular walks over the summer. Some of these are with dads only and some are with kids and some with mums too.
“We also have dads clubs in Preston two out of the four weeks of the month where we attend dads groups with the children and play. Sometimes we have soft play sessions.
“We have in the past had parents night out where mum and dad hit the town.
“We go to Tiny Teacups in Bamber Bridge quite often. As well as this, we have a movie review night, a discounts board, and various topics to get people chatting. It’s a great place for dads to get help and support and to make dad friends.
“It’s a good feeling to have a social circle again, and hopefully get a little fitter in the process.”
Dadsnet has been given extra support from private accelerator company TeamHQ, which has sponsored the group’s Kickabout sessions and helped to provide affordable venues for the meet-ups.
Graham Sims says: “We used to play on a park and in winter it made it difficult and expensive until TeamHQ came in and offered to help and give dads an affordable place to meet, socialise and get a little fitter in the process.”
The project allows those men who may never have kicked a ball in their lives before to meet up with other men to play, socialise and improve their fitness in a safe and open environment, dispelling the myth that men don’t talk.
TeamHQ’s co-founder Elliot Evans says: “In the wake of several high-profile and a heart-breaking number of local male suicides, we looked at how we could try and help. This may be a small gesture but if it helps just one life it will be a success.”
TeamHQ will also be using its expertise by offering career and business advice alongside helping in areas such as mental, physical, social and financial health, to help boost the well-being of the Dadsnet community.
For more information about this project, visit www.TeamHQ.co.uk