Celebrities back Sussex-based national charity’s Bare Yourself challenge

Celebrities have taken up a Sussex-based national charity’s Bare Yourself challenge, to encourage men to be more open about how they are feeling and access support when they need it.

Wednesday, 2nd June 2021, 12:56 pm

StrongMen, which supports men following bereavement, is asking people to use social media to post tasteful pictures of a part of their body they would not normally show.

Jeff Brazier Troy Deeney, Antony Cotton and Bobby Zamora are just some of the names involved.

Efrem Brynin, co-founder of StrongMen, said: “It is a serious subject but we are doing it in a light-hearted way. Most guys would rather walk down the road naked than talk about their troubles, and that was the starting point.”

StrongMen founders Dan Cross, left, and Efrem Brynin promoting the Bare Yourself campaign

The month-long Bare Yourself campaign, the charity’s biggest awareness effort to date, launched on June 1, following specific research into how men grieve.

Efrem, whose son James Brynin was killed in 2013 on his second tour of Afghanistan, founded the charity with Dan Cross, whose wife was killed in September 2015. They met through being contestants on the Channel 4 show SAS: Who Dares Wins, Efrem in the second series and Dan in the third.

Efrem, who lives in Pulborough, said: “We both used exercise as a form of healing and both saw the benefits of being put in a group of complete strangers and making different friendships.”

They used their experiences to set up StrongMen as a CIC in May 2018 and it became a charity in July 2019, offering services to help men going through the toughest of times.

Efrem said: “Grief can cause severe mental and physical health conditions which are often overlooked and even ignored, especially in men.

“James died in 2013 and I was diagnosed with prostate cancer in 2017, I believe as a direct result of the stress. I was 44 at the time. I’ve had a lot of issues caused by the stress, headaches, aches and pains.

“People aren’t quite so aware of the physical impact. We are trying to get the guys to not just grin and bear it, to look after themselves a little bit better, rather than let it slide.

“I didn’t realise that my body was so under stress, you feel you have so many people to sort out and to look after – it is like a water leak, it will always find a way out.”

The charity offers support to any man aged over 18 who has lost somebody, in any circumstances.

Efrem said: “Whenever anybody applies for one of our services, they fill in a questionnaire which includes details of their circumstances. Some of them are very harrowing, others are more conventional, like a parent dying of dementia or cancer, but the impact is equal.

“Bereavement is a unique emotional experience. It is something that will impact all of us but it can be very isolating. It is not nice to be the only person going through a particular issue. We provide a peer network and support. It is good to know people have got your back.

“We wanted to create an environment where people could talk freely and emotionally, and also to challenge them physically and emotionally, hence the Weekenders. It is a very simple thing but we all enjoy the camaraderie.

“The Man2Man telephone service came out of Covid and helps people to reach out for peer support. The monthly online meet-ups give people a place to chat and share their stories.”

There are strict safeguarding policies and both wives are involved. Sharon Brynin, who is a nurse, is the medical consultant and Alexandra Cross, a psychologist, is the mental health consultant.

Efrem and Sharon live in Pulborough, and Dan and Alexandra live in Hemel Hempstead, but the charity operates across the UK from the base in Amelia House, Crescent Road, Worthing. Visit www.strongmen.org.uk for more information, email [email protected] or telephone 0800 915 0400.