In 2008 I set up a support group for men, because I had read about a man who had recently died by suicide, which in turn, was followed by another man, then another. Obviously the recession had hit, and the impact became very real for some families. It was a horrible time, when ordinary people experienced extraordinary stress because of redundancy/job losses, which were inevitably followed by debt.

I remember thinking to myself how difficult it must have been for men to cope with such pressure. With families depending on them, their feelings of helplessness, uselessness and disempowerment must have weighed pretty heavy. As a woman, I found it difficult too, I spoke to friends over coffee, I listened to how they were feeling, how they were impacted. I think that most men feel a sense of identity and accomplishment when they provide for their families. A sense of pride. Many of them have been raised with this expectation placed on them, passed down from their parents and then measured by society.

I guess you are wondering, why the content in this article isn’t really reflecting the title. Fair observation! I guess it’s because I feel the need to acknowledge and respect all who suffered at that shameful time. A time that caused me to personally reflect, and to help in any way that I could.

I advertised locally, offering to facilitate a group session for men. I didn’t know how effective it would be, I had just qualified as a life coach, and was still a bit unsure of myself, but as luck would have it, I received seven calls, and that was it, no turning back.

I structured the support group into workshop type sessions, that would run for 6 weeks. The first session, like that year, was hopeless and bleak. Seven sat there feeling hopeless. We started to work through the events that had brought them to the group, each with their own story to tell and how it had impacted their lives. On about week 3, as the guys became more familiar, the chatter in the room was encouraging, we had started to set and achieve some small goals, and when the pressure had lifted, the humour floated in.

Guys are great like that, they often use humour to mask hurt, and by default, they end up putting others completely at ease! There’s always a joker in every class, that one person who can’t allow themselves to drift too low, a coping mechanism that allows them to be seriously funny! They lift spirits and open our minds to looking at things in a different way. As goals were achieved, humour and a sense of fun appeared. I ran this workshop 4 times, with a limit of 10 participants, and each time, humour played a huge part in its success.


I have done this over the years myself! When things were just too difficult to process. I indulged in humour, (as did my family!) In 2012, my sister in law was diagnosed with lung cancer. It was a devastating event in our lives. Her  condition was terminal, and sadly, she died a short time later in 2013.

During her illness, she and my brother used humour in the most hilariously inappropriate ways! It was probably borderline hysteria, but it got us through somehow, it dragged us on. Humour served a purpose for us, an invaluable sense of control while we were free falling. Of course, she died, and for a time, the laughter did too – compartmentalised for a while, to make way for tears.


How we interpret and express humour is subjective. We dont all have the same sense of humour, however, I think that our relationship with humour and our sense of fun really matters when life starts to feel a little clouded. I think that humour and positivity are intrinsically linked, both are uplifting, and both need to be reinforced in terms of development. I think that one unlocks the other and that this can have a tremendous influence on our mental health – and that’s just us, making that difference on our own. Often, by developing a positive mindset, humour inevitably shows up – perhaps humour is the joker in the class of positivity. The light hearted side to learning. Or is it just the Irishness in me, and my understanding of where humour can really fit.

Humour is there, even when you think that it is not, and it is there to help, to soften harshness, to brighten darkness. It is amazing to witness in action, often at the most bizzarr of times! Those guys taught me a lot about the importance of expression, in whatever form that takes, and to allow humour to be a part of a process that may be too painful to express in any other way. Apparently, it’s just waiting around the corner,  ready to draw a smirk!

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