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A Snapshot of Men’s Mental Health Through the Lens

Mo Jannah Submerged

Galvanize, a poignant and interactive photography exhibition depicting different Welsh men’s battles with their mental health will pop-up in Cardiff’s St David’s 2 on Friday, June 14th, to coincide with Men’s Health Week (June 10th – 16th.)

Featuring compelling visuals narratives, portraits, words and video of Welsh men who have been impacted by personal mental health struggles, the collection features Grant Zehetmayr, the founder of Welsh cold water swimming movement Dawn Stalkers; Wales rugby talent Shane Lewis-Hughes and pop culture artist Nathan Wyburn.

The One Show presenter Mo Jannah and Dragons rugby star and anti-racism ambassador Ashton Hewitt, also feature in Galvanize, which runs as a pop-up outside Swarovski in Cardiff’s St David’s shopping centre on Friday, June 14th.

Galvanize aims to encourage dialogue on men’s mental health across the capital and beyond and is a collaboration between men’s mental wellbeing and suicide prevention hub helpu. (Welsh for help) and acclaimed photographer Suzie Larke.

Galvanize has been funded by For Cardiff’s City Ambition Fund. The images are presented on 50cm x 50cm interchangeable cubes, which can be swapped around.

Mo Janna and Ashton Hewitt’s images have been selected to feature in a four-month takeover of the exterior of London’s South Bank Centre from 8th June.

Mo, who modelled for the piece ‘Submerged,’ said: “This image resonates deeply with me around the pressures men often face to stay stoic and lead and not drown in work and life. To me it shows the need for supportive spaces where we can come to the surface, share our vulnerabilities, and engage in genuine emotional conversations to relieve pressure.”

Ashton faced relentless online trolls while advocating against racism and says of the piece ‘Unsocial Media,’ “I immersed myself in social media, trying to engage with everyone to make a difference.

Unsocial Media

“But being constantly tethered to my phone took a toll on my mental wellbeing. It was one of the toughest periods I’ve experienced.”

Men disproportionately experience mental health issues, with suicide rates consistently higher for men than for women. Over the past decade, suicide rates for men in Wales have exceeded those in England.

Each portrait cube is accompanied by a QR code linking to the helpu.org hub and to Welsh or English film in which the men share their personal experiences.

Film documenting the portrait process also features via the codes as well as being played on location.

Nathan Wyburn is captured in a paint-splattered shot in ‘A Happy Place’, which, he says, reflects his own journey: “Floating in creativity, painting with total happiness, Art and creativity have been my lifeline, helping me navigate through difficulties and trauma stemming from past experiences and the daily pressures of life.”

Professional and international rugby star Shane Lewis Hughes enjoyed modelling for ‘Nature. Peace,’ saying: “The pressure of being a man, living up to the alpha male stereotype – I’ve felt that. Getting outdoors has been crucial for me. Living right next door to nature has helped me calm down when I’m pressured. This image captures that sense of peace and renewal.”

The Men’s Sheds movement establishes community groups specifically around the needs of men Pontypridd’s Men’s Shed group is all about ‘Pulling Together,’ which is the title of their piece.

The group said: “We’re like a tight-knit team pulling together. In this image, we’re all grabbing onto the rope to pull our mate up from the ground. It’s what we’re all about  – supporting each other through thick and thin. We think we need to see more of this around Wales.”

Helpu Director Ian Smith said: “Galvanize is for everybody who has a man in their life. We think that it’s crucial to spotlight men’s mental health during this week.

“We are grateful for the support of St David’s, The South Bank Centre and FOR Cardiff in our mission to reduce stigma and suicide rates and improve men’s mental health in Wales.”

As the only female among her siblings, Suzy Larke understands how positive men’s mental wellbeing benefits entire families.

She said: “This project has been creatively challenging but incredibly rewarding. I’ve been up at the crack of dawn, diving into swimming pools with Mo Jannah in a suit, and having fun with Nathan Wyburn throwing paint around! It’s an honour to collaborate on these images that not only highlight an important issue but also push the boundaries of my own photographic work.”

There will be a screening of the film element of the exhibition at Cardiff’s Little Man Coffee in the evening of June 14t.h