A FORMER accountant who has suffered from severe anxiety since he was a child and who overcame alcohol dependency is hoping to support other men struggling with their mental health.

James Wood, from Kendal, came up with the idea of Bro Room, a group that will offer peer support in person and online for men, after battling with his own health and feeling there was ‘limited’ coverage of similar groups for men in the county.

Struggling with anxiety disorders since he was a child the 38-year-old was kicked out of sixth form on his first day but managed to turn his life around and qualified as an accountant in 2009.

But the stress of working for high profile companies for more than a decade, whilst managing his anxiety, saw the recently qualified mental health first aider rely heavily on alcohol to cope.

“Having suffered since childhood with anxiety disorders, varying in severity over the years, managing these alongside such jobs was difficult and I depended heavily on alcohol to cope,” he said.

“Eventually I lost control of the alcohol and saw worsening physical health problems; high blood pressure, obesity, liver damage and an ever-worsening problem with depression as a result.”

Mr Wood had his last drink in November last year.

“From 150plus units a week to zero , I locked myself away and got on with it,” he said.

“It was the centre of my life for so long that once I had got beyond the physical cravings, I grieved for its loss, taking six months at least to realise I was better without.

“Now, just even the thought of drinking to me seems ludicrous.”

After overcoming his drinking Mr Wood decided to leave his job in the summer to prioritise his health and help his wife build her hairdressing business.

He also completed a mental health first aid course in April and has set the date for Bro Room’s first meeting for November 9, which will mark a year since his last drink.

“Having had some personal experience of mental health and addiction problems I had this idea, and it isn't an original one, of putting together a men's peer support service for the forgotten reaches of the North West where coverage by existing groups is limited but also for those lads that are the least likely to ask,” he said.

“Men are three times more likely to commit suicide, have much higher rates of alcohol and drug dependence, report lower levels of life satisfaction and yet are the ones least likely to ask for help.

“Bro Room will be a peer-led, peer to peer support service for guys of all ages. We see it as a wellbeing organisation rather than being labelled as “mental health”.

“Mental health, addiction and physical health are so intertwined, and it is time we all start to think about our mental health as we do our physical health and keep it in shape rather than trying to put it back together once it’s in pieces.”

Mr Wood hopes for the group to be a ‘first port of call’ and he intends to work closely with other specialised charities, local authorities, police, doctors, and mental health professionals to build a network of signposting options for those attending and to facilitate mentoring, coaching, and counselling in the same relaxed environment.

He hopes meetings will be held weekly and aims to build an online community.

And he believes the idea can expand beyond Cumbria.

“I see no reason why we cannot have Bro Room evenings popping up in Penrith, Carlisle, Lancaster or beyond and I would welcome anyone that would want to chat about becoming involved,” said Mr Wood.

Mr Wood is interested in hearing from barbers, tattooists, taxi drivers and other people in public facing roles who may be interested in getting involved to host meetings.

He is also looking into ways to fund mental health first aid training for people in these roles, who he believes are in the right place to start conversations.

The first BroRoom evening will be held at David Graham Hairdressing in Kendal on November 9 at 7pm.

Email James at james@broroom.uk or message www.facebook.com/thebroroomto to get involved or find out more.