How this landlord is using his pub to get people talking about their mental health

A landlord hopes his pub’s new initiative will break down the barriers many people face when first seeking help for their mental health.

No One Alone is a new project taking place at The Gerard Arms in Dentons Green Lane, St Helens, which landlord Mark Hayes hopes will encourage pubs across Wigan to take up the initiative too.

Every Monday evening, Mark will open up table 12 in the hope that the casual and welcoming environment of a pub would encourage people, who would be daunted by a traditional counselling session, to speak up.

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“There are too many stigmas around mental health, where you can speak to a counsellor, where you’re in a room with them and it’s a bit of a tick-the-box exercise,” said Mark, who is also chairman of Ashton Town FC.

Gerard Arms landlord Mark Hayes

“I’m just an old-school landlord, and I’ve got the facilities to meet people, so it’s nothing for me to stay an extra hour and a half on a Monday to open up a table and invite people in, if they’ve got any issue, whatever it is.

“It’s not that I can sort it, but I can listen, and other people who come along can listen too and help to try and sort their situation out.

“On a Monday, within a safe environment, within a pub, somebody is going to be sitting at that table who will listen to you.

“The first one was last Monday. People from completely different backgrounds turned up.

Gerard Arms

“One was a man with learning difficulties, who just wanted to talk because he doesn’t have anyone to speak to.

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“Another one was a lady who has lost her husband, her kids have grown up and moved away, she’s not many friends.

“She loved that she knew to go to table 12.

“There’s groups where you might be able to go but you’ve still got the stigma of going through the door, then finding where you have to go.

“But she’d seen me on social media, she knew that we were at table 12. So she got over the hurdle, came and sat with us and just opened up.”

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He added: “The dream is, ideally in every borough, there’s a ‘table 12’. I’m in St Helens, but it’d be great if pubs in Wigan take it on board.”

Mark also wrote on social media: “We are all dealing with a challenge of some kind, some of us are just better at hiding it than others.

“I am no councillor or trained life guru, however life has tested me hard, and I am a good listener.

“I have been on the ropes a couple of times, and once I hit rock bottom with no lower. Luckily I got up off the canvas.

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“Every Monday I will be sitting at table 12 from 6.30pm till 8pm to listen to anyone who needs.

“There may end up being a few of us, there may be just me, but you know we are all there for the same reason.

“To listen, to laugh, or to lend a shoulder. You are not alone, so do not give up on life.”