RECLAIM's young people team up with Leigh Centurions to call time on ‘toxic masculinity’

30 working class young men (aged 12-13) from youth charity RECLAIM have joined forces with professional rugby league club, Leigh Centurions, and Prevention of Young Suicide charity, PAPYRUS, to reject dangerous stereotypes about how to be a man and raise awareness about preventing male suicide.

The group want to challenge outdated ideas that men need to ‘man up’ and not show emotion or seek support. Their campaign, #TalkToUsStayWithUs, thought up by the lads on RECLAIM’s LEAD programme will officially launch on Sunday 1 September at Leigh Sports Village, where Leigh Centurions take on The York City Knights.

It’s expected that 6,000 fans will be in attendance, giving the Leigh lads the opportunity to reach out and challenge preconceived notions of what it means to be a “real man” and spread their messages of self-care, acceptance and support.

More than half of Britain’s young men feel pressured to “man up” as a result of damaging gender stereotypes[1]. Luke Fletcher, 13, said “As a group we are trying to change the way people see what a man can and should be”

Utilising space outside the stadium the group hope to speak to fans and visitors about their campaign; Connor Ottiwell, 13, believes that young men should “be who they want to be and not who they are told to be”. With Jonah Clare adding, “Toxic masculinity can lead men to feeling like they are a failure and not good enough if they are not strong or ‘macho’. It’s important [to know about toxic masculinity] because men may feel pressured to be manly and not show your emotions, but that can be hard sometimes.”

Roger Harding, CEO of RECLAIM, said: “It’s brilliant to see a group of lads brave enough to talk about their emotions and tell the world that they’re not happy to be confined to traditional stereotypes about men.

“We’re immensely proud of the work of the lads and their determination to use their voices to encourage people to get support when they need it. Young working class people too often get written off, but these lads prove that with the right support they have the ability and passion to make brilliant things happen.

“We are incredibly grateful to Leigh Centurions and PAPYRUS, for supporting the lads’ campaign and to Wigan Council for their continued support for the RECLAIM Project.”

Suicide is the single biggest killer of men under the age of 45. Chris Prendergast, Marketing and Communications Officer at PAPYRUS, said: “We know from calls, texts and emails to our suicide prevention helpline HOPELINEUK that many young men feel pressured or constrained by traditional ideas of masculinity, including the idea that asking for help is a ‘weakness’. This can contribute to their thoughts of suicide. #TalkToUsStayWithUs is a fantastic campaign – it is inspiring to see young men talk about seeking support and challenging the stereotypes that tell them to ‘man up’. Suicide is the biggest killer of young people, male and female, in the UK and we know that campaigns like this can genuinely help to save young lives from suicide.”