For young people, working out who they are can be a lot to face. They may struggle to find their place in the world, and the sense of belonging that identity can bring. For young men today, this includes managing expectations and ideas of masculinity, which for some can be both confusing and overwhelming.

At Depaul, we believe supporting young people through their personal development, can help maintain stability as they move on and into their own accommodation. That’s why we’ve been supporting young people to explore these ideas together.

In the North East, Depaul have piloted a new group for young men* to explore issues around masculinity in a safe space. We spoke to Mental Health and Wellbeing Manager, Richard Walker- Hardwick to find out more.

Client involvement

“It came via client feedback. Young men said they would appreciate a space where they would be able to talk.”

“What the group does is it explores, celebrates and challenges masculinity. There is a need to celebrate it, but also there is a need to challenge it as there is a toxic masculinity that affects the whole of society.”

From role models to humour, each group session, explored a different theme and topic.

“The important thing was these were explorations of masculinity rather than being told what they should think and say. That’s really, really important. So many young people are told how to behave, what to do. This comes from a different direction. It allows them the space to explore and challenge without being jumped upon. So, that’s crucial.”

Impact of the sessions

“The impact you could see from the discussions and the quotes they came up with. Also from the fact it was very well attended and people kept coming back. The groups feedback into the accommodation projects. It was a talking point. They’d take it back and talk about it in keywork sessions.”

One of those clients was Alfie. Alfie arrived at Depaul in October 2020, having travelled from London via several different locations. Having lost his mother when he was 2, Alfie left his abusive father and step-mother when he was 16. He travelled to various locations to live with young women he met on TikTok. When these relationships fell apart, he became homeless.

Alfie attended all Men’s Groups sessions, and with the support of staff has continued to explore the themes raised in the Men’s Group, such as healthy relationships and what this means to him.

Staff at Depaul House added, “We’ve been able to see over time the improvement in Alfie’s outlook on life. We are proud of Alfie and the progress he has made and tell him this regularly, and we are supporting him, through the Men’s Group and elsewhere, to continue his path of becoming the man he can be; one that grows in self-confidence and worth. He continues to mature as a young man in many areas, and has now found himself employment.”

Exploring gender

Due to the success of the group with clients, Richard is now planning to roll out the group across Depaul’s other regional services for both men and women.

“This is something I’m going to take further. What I want to do is write a course that can be run with young men, but actually the same course can be run with young women. The same questions. And it can be used with however you identify.”

“It’s happening if we want it to or not and Depaul should be at the forefront of it. Exploring gender and sexuality, led by our young people.”


*this includes anyone who identifies as a man.