Wardipedia – 33. Men’s stuff

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It’s a bloke thing


Nick McMaster, Lead Activities Facilitator at Sussex Partnership Trust was struck by the challenges of motivating the guys on the ward to get involved in activities. His creative, practical response was Doing Stuff! 25 imaginative activities for male mental health inpatient groups by. We’re very inspired by Nick’s fabulous work and hugely grateful that he’s sharing it with the Star Wards community. We hope you enjoy the excerpts below.

Activities for male mental health inpatient groups

Foreword to Doing Stuff! by Peter Baker of Men’s Health Forum
It has long been known that men and women have different attitudes to personal health. By and large, men are more likely to take risks with their health and are less likely to seek timely help for health-related problems. Men also tend to be less well informed about health in general. The net result is that men’s health in the UK is poorer than it need be.This basic knowledge about the difference between the sexes has been expanded in recent years by rather more sophisticated research into the links between gender and health. Few would now dispute that the way that health services are provided can also make a significant difference to people’s health. To be as effective as possible, services need to recognise that men and women think about health differently.Of course, not all men and all women are the same – but the very briefest glance at the way people spend their spare time will tell you that men and women often have different interests.
Not only that; but men and women may enjoy their interests in a different way. It is often the case that the activity itself is the focus for men, while women may give higher priority to the social contact that a shared interest brings about.As Nick McMaster points out in the introduction to this pack, there is a long and commendable history in both community and in-patient services of supporting women-only groups. Furthermore, some existing activities may perhaps hold more appeal for women than women.  Add to this that men tend – for a variety of reasons – to be more reluctant “joiners” and you can easily end up with a situation where men are less well catered for. This is a great shame, since such groups and activities are known to have both social and therapeutic benefits.

This extremely helpful, practical and creative pack helps redress the balance. I am sure that people will find the ideas helpful and I hope that the pack will inspire users to come up with ideas of their own. Research has begun to show that men will take an interest in their general health where services are provided in such a way that they take account of the male “world view”. I am sure that same applies to activities for those with a mental health problem.

I am pleased to see this pack in production and I commend it to you not only for its simple usefulness but also because it contributes to the development of services that take better account of men’s needs.

Kind regards

Peter Baker

Chief Executive, Men’s Health Forum



Introduction: Welcome to Doing Stuff! for Wardipedia

In my role as Lead Activities Facilitator at Mill View Hospital in the city of Brighton and Hove, I lead on projects which bring about an improvement in the activity provision for all our inpatient clients. So why develop activities specifically for male clients? Traditionally in mainstream mental health there have always been female only groups in hospital, in the community, provided by both statutory and non statutory services, whereas there has been a dearth of similar services for men. From attending various conferences and communicating with NHS colleagues around the country it appears that similar experiences are in evidence in their areas.

In the last few years our inpatient wards have changed from being based on locality to being based on gender, the result of which is that we now have two male only wards and one female. This has made such an undertaking even more important to help staff create and keep gender orientated activity at the heart of the therapeutic ward environment.

Please note that this file deliberately excludes the types of groups that most inpatient units are already familiar with. Art, cooking, music are equally important but we know that already. This is a file for surprises! Finally: a message to the ‘sisterhood’. Don’t feel excluded! Should this file find its way into your hands then help yourselves!

Nick McMaster

Lead Activities Facilitator

Sussex Partnership NHS Foundation Trust

Mill View Hospital

[email protected]


About the activity notes

Each activity follows the following format:

Group and 1:1 activity? The ideas in this file are only included if they can be facilitated as a group activity. This section indicates whether the activity can also be done as a 1:1.
Evidence Each activity aims to have some kind of evidence of its benefits, which can be useful if you are asking for resources or need to validate setting something up. Because most of the activities don’t have acres of research and journal articles behind them, the evidence in the main is gathered from websites associated with the activity.Building up your own evidence base is useful too, through service user satisfaction surveys and anecdotal feedback.
Start-up costs Many of the activities are based around equipment and materials. I didn’t spend too long comparing suppliers, hence the regularity of a national chain like Argos. I deliberately haven’t included resources such as free bay, charity shops etc as that is more for local consideration.
Ongoing costs Some activities may require ongoing costs where resources are finite. Any successful activity may require better or more equipment too.
Environment This section gives an indication as to what the minimum environmental requirements may be facilitate the activity. Though a few are a little tenuous (such as fishing!), all activities should be practical for your particular setting.
Community Access Socially inclusive activity is the buzzword theses days. This resource has been created to address a local need for a specific unit to provide activity ideas for our male only wards.Try to aim to develop activities that can in some way be accessed in the community. This breaks down barriers and lends a very strong philosophy to the project.
Further information This section most often provides links to other websites for those clients who may wish to explore the activity further.


Inclusion criteria

The following information lists the inclusion criteria and is a useful guide for those who want to develop their own ideas.


Within the NHS there is a lot of emphasis placed on evidenced based practice. This is more difficult when you might be trying something new. So where evidence is brief or non existent, but the activity is interesting and meets the practical and environmental criteria, the activity has been included.

This type of project is a great opportunity to try out practice based evidence. So build up your own evidence through engaging in the activity and getting feedback from those who participate.


Each activity needs to be practical in that it should be able to be facilitated in your setting. Costs of activities have not been taken into account as expenditure on resources is very much an individual service issue. The practicality should instead be based on the feasibility of facilitating the activity within the existing hospital building and grounds.

Community access

Each activity aims to have some kind of community link; the idea being that if a client finds something they enjoy and value as an inpatient, they have the opportunity to continue it once they have left hospital. Where it has been hard to find bricks and mortar resources the link will be to a website. You will need to do your own work on this to match the ideas to your local resources.



Bird Watching,


Card School,


Climbing (Wall and Tower),

Darts, DJing,




Map Appreciation,

Men’s Shed,

Metal Detecting,

Model Making,

Music Appreciation,



Pub Quiz,

Reading Group,



Table Tennis,

Tai Chi,

Traditional Pub Games,




5 ideas from Doing Stuff!

The five ideas here have been developed for Mill View Hospital in Brighton and Hove.

Activity Bird Watching
Group and 1:1 activity? Yes
Evidence The website of Bird Life International (“Working together for birds and people”) has a brief article on “Why watch birds?” http://www.guardian.co.uk/books/2006/aug/18/scienceandnature.environment is a Guardian article by writer Stephen Moss with a more personal look at the benefits of bird watching through his own experiences.
Start-up costs is from the website of Everything Birds (“For the bird lovers of Britain”) which has a list of suggested basic equipment when starting out. The most essential item of course is a pair of binoculars and the website recommends 10 x 50 binoculars. Argos (http://www.argos.co.uk/static/Home.htm) sells bird watching binoculars meeting that specification for £40.You may also want a guide book. The RSPB Pocket Guide to British Birds by Simon Harrap (A&C Black Publishers Ltd) retails for £5. If you are a bit more serious a note book for recording or even drawing sightings would be recommended.Basically, as with a lot of hobbies you could spend as much as you want.
Ongoing costs See above
Environment If you have hospital grounds no matter how urban, you are likely to see birds. Here at Mill View we do have gardens. Perhaps wards could consider (risk assessed!) bird tables, boxes or even planting to attract more birds. For more help the RSPB website gives trips on creating bird friendly gardens:http://www.rspb.org.uk/wildlife/wildlifegarden/#. The website generally is a great resource.
Community Access The RSPB has a South East England branch based in Brighton:RSPB, South East England, 2nd Floor, 42 Frederick Place, Brighton, East Sussex
BN1 4EA. Tel: 01273 775333.The Brighton & District Local Group meets once a month at the All Saints Church in Hove for an admission price of £1.50. They say: “We have monthly day-trips by coach to field events (September to May) and ‘easy going’ mid-week walks in our local area.” For more information contact the above number or check out their web area: http://www.rspb.org.uk/groups/brighton
Further information http://www.birdforum.net/ is in their words “the net’s largest birding community, dedicated to wild birds and birding.” You can reguister for a free account which allows you to take part in lively discussions in the forum, access a vast photo gallery ) and more.
Activity Card School
Group and 1:1 activity? Yes. Though most card games are better with a group.
Evidence The article ‘Full House’ (http://www.aarpmagazine.org/games/full_house.html) gives one person’s account on the benefits of playing poker. There is also the website of the International Playing-Card Society (http://www.i-p-c-s.org/) which is a pretty thorough resource and also provides many links.According to our monthly activity attendance statistics card games are one of the most popular 1:1 interventions on Pavilion PICU (Psychiatric Intensive Care Unit)
Start-up costs Very little for most card games.
Ongoing costs See above
Environment You’ll need a table as well as chairs
Community Access There are many bridge playing courses as a part of adult education courses, and further details can be found on the Hotcourses website http://www.hotcourses.com/uk-courses/Card-Games-courses/hc2_browse.pg_loc_tree/16180339/0/p_type_id/1/p_bcat_id/10206/page.htmThe most local is at Varndean College (08452021442), Brighton. The course for beginners is 10 weeks long and costs £75.http://www.ebu.co.uk/  is the website of the English Bridge Union and the affiliated local club is the Patcham Bridge Club schools for other games appear to be restricted to online gaming (Boo! Hiss!). There are an increasing number of pubs in the city running Poker nights but I have been unable to investigate further to wheedle out the dens of iniquity.My personal favourite is Cribbage. There are leagues in the rest of the county but my online search has not discovered any in the city. However it could be worth checking out your traditional real ale type pub as it’s not uncommon to see a local or two playing this masterful game.
Further information The World of Playing Cards (http://www.wopc.co.uk/) is a colourful website worth looking at.http://www.bbc.co.uk/dna/h2g2/A597882on the BBC website has a comprehensive list of card games and their rules.Cribbage Corner (“Cribbage has a home” http://cribbagecorner.com/) is a comprehensive website with links to online and downloadable games, forums and tips. For example: the perfect hand – worth 29 points – comprises of four 5’s and the Jack of Nobs!
Activity Pub Quiz
Group and 1:1 activity? Group
Evidence Quizzes have been a mainstay of mental health units for many a year. At Mill View they are done as evening activities on the ward and provide a social focus for the community.
Start-up costs http://www.pubquizhelp.com/ is a website that provides “lists of facts to help with pub quiz questions and answers”. If you feel that writing your own quiz questions is too time consuming you can download a quiz night pack. This includes everything you need to hold your own ‘pub’ quiz, customised to your requirements. http://www.quiz-zone.co.uk/offers a similar resource plus a forum.Other than that all you need is prizes, unless you can convince those taking part that intellectual superiority is reward enough!
Ongoing costs Prizes
Environment Can be facilitated almost anywhere
Community Access There are loads of pub quizzes throughout the week in Brighton and Hove and you can check out local listings for details. On line http://www.pubquizhelp.com/quiz/eastsussex.htmlalso lists local quizzes.
Further information There are many free online quizzes such as those found online
Activity Map Appreciation
Group and 1:1 activity? Both. As a group you can generate greater discussion.
Evidence Haven’t found a great deal of info other than the brief sentence here: http://www.rossmaps.com/. Though anecdotally quite a few men do like looking through maps!  I know a number of men that have framed maps on their walls!
Start-up costs www.stanfords.co.uk is the world’s largest map and travel book store online. A 4’8” x 3’6” world map is available at £10 with a plastic covered version selling for £22. Large world atlases start at £40. Any map you could possibly want is here and should suit most ‘ward’ pockets. The Ordinance Survey also sells online (www.ordinancesurvey.co.uk) with their detailed Explorer maps retailing at £14.
Ongoing costs Depends how many maps you need! See above.
Environment You’ll need to spread out and have a large table surface and perhaps have a free wall for wall maps.
Community Access For those who want to turn their interests in maps into something more physical the website of a Brighton based hill walking group that specialises in training. Their Lowland Hillwalking & Navigation Short Course modules include a map reading course which costs £55. At a previous Brighton Festival they ran a free Fringe event called “A Day on the Downs”
Further information This could be a great group to promote discussion and cultural awareness– where you have been, where you’re from, where you’d like to go etc.Google Earth (http://earth.google.com/) is a magnificent, free, downloadable internet resource which “lets you fly anywhere on Earth to view satellite imagery, maps, terrain, 3D buildings and even explore galaxies in the sky.” Also check out the Library of Congress online map collection, a part of their American Memory project. http://lcweb2.loc.gov/ammem/gmdhtml/gmdhome.html
Activity Men’s Shed
Group and 1:1 activity? Yes
Evidence Men: we all love a shed. This an idea taken from the groundbreaking Australian Men’s Shed Association ) in which ‘community’ sheds are being built enabling men from all walks of life engage in a variety of useful skills whilst also having space to talk about feelings, emotions and “take an interest in their own health and well-being.”Inspired by this there are projects cropping up around the British Isles, and one of these, the Irish Men’s Shed Forum, ) puts it best: “the primary activity is the provision of a safe, friendly and inclusive environment where men are able to gather together and/ or work on meaningful projects at their own pace, in their own time and in the company of other men and where the primary objective is to advance the health and well being of the participating men.”My idea is that a similar, smaller scale project could work in an inpatient setting. Whether it is providing the opportunity to engage in woodwork, gardening or pottering around, creating a safe space for men away from the more clinical therapeutic environments could be just the thing our clients need.
Start-up costs Unsurprisingly the Australian ‘community’ sheds are really rather large. The best shed would be the biggest one you could get away with. Bear in mind that room to engage in woodwork might take up more space than that required for a lap top! Try checking out Shed World, “The UK’s favourite shed store” (http://www.shedsworld.co.uk/). The minimum size requirement would probably be the popular 8’x6’ and they can start at around £200. To have room to swing a cat rather than just pet it would require a recession busting £1200 for a 20’x10’. Ah, but to dream…Other costs would then depend on what activities you wanted to provide. It may be worth going down the free and second hand route. Don’t forget the concrete base too will require some expenditure.If finances are tight how about considering trying to recreate the shed environment in an existing space. Wood effects wallpaper anyone?
Ongoing costs See above
Environment See above: Enough land for the shed and the concrete base.
Community Access Nothing as yet, but perhaps with a big enough shed you could go down the inreach path instead and invite ex patients to keep attending and share their skills.
Further information is – as already mentioned – the website of the original movement in Australia. They provide links to other groups. Search ‘for men’s shed’ on http://www.bbc.co.ukand you’ll come across a radio documentary too.
Activity Scalextric
Group and 1:1 activity? Yes
Evidence The website http://www.modelmotorracing.comused to have a link to ‘Get Scalextric’. The link no longer exists but the document is printed below.
Start-up costs Basic Scalextric Start Set with two cars and an oval circuit retails for around £40 in Argos (http://www.argos.co.uk/static/Home.htm). This kit would probably be a bit boring so best to save up and wait for the sales and get something better!
Ongoing costs How long is a piece of string? The more you spend the better the experience. Perhaps wards could share costs and kits
Environment Requirement for a large floor area. If you use tables provision would need to be made to protect the cars from hitting the floor and getting damaged (I know that from bitter experience!)
Community Access http://www.roedaleslotcars.co.uk/ is the website of a Coldean based model car racing club that welcomes new members. Their club house has a 24 metre 4 lane track. Contact [email protected]
Further information Great for Inter-ward competition. Different wards could have different circuits. Competition could run on the lines of Formula One. nscc.co.uk/ is the website of the NSCC (formally known as the National Scalextric Collectors Club) a worldwide enthusiast’s club with an annual membership of £22. For that you get a monthly magazine, details of Swapmeets and social weekends.
 10 GOOD REASONS TO GET A SCALEXTRIC SET 1. Educational value. Slot car racing is very educational for the kids, teaches them about electricity, physics, computers, model making and so on, plus, how to look after the cars and do a bit of “engineering” on the cars to get better performance.2. Family benefit. It’s a great social activity for the family to do together instead of going to separate rooms to play on computer games or watch TV.

3. Diversion value. It can also be a means to keep some members of the family occupied whilst others get on with something else (lots of scope to tailor this statement to whatever you need it to say). “Why don’t you go and play with the Scalextric while…”

4. Stress relief. Taking a slot car for a blast is a good way to give vent to the stresses of a busy day at the office, and scenery building is also a great diversion for a Sunday afternoon too.

5. Gift opportunities. Once you have a Scalextric set it provides unlimited opportunities for Christmas and birthday presents for years to come, from small things like trackside accessories, to new cars.

6. Money saving. In these times of increasing cost of travel (e.g. to the cinema, out for a meal, etc.) a social race night held at your house is much cheaper than getting in the car. Why not invite your neighbours to make up the numbers perhaps.

7. Social value. You will be keeping alive a hobby which has been in existence since the 1950s and it can generate a whole new social circle for you, by enabling you to meet new friends with similar interests at slot car clubs and swap meets.

8. Don’t be bored, develop a new hobby. Some people don’t actually race their

Scalextric cars but just collect them and display them – this could be an alternative suggestion for you, perhaps if you don’t have space for a track yourself. Maybe keep a few that you do actually use to race, but at other people’s circuits.

9. A good substitute for the real thing. If you are a budding Lewis Hamilton but don’t have the nerve or funding to strap yourself into a go-kart, then you can live out your motor racing fantasies much more cheaply (and safely) with a Scalextric layout.

Ward Examples

  • As a male hospital all groups are male focussed. ‘Healthy Lifestyles’ group and ‘Well Man’ group have themes particular to male health.


Categories: Activities, Wardipedia