A MENTAL health support group for men - started after its founder's two friends took their own lives within days of each other - is holding its first meeting in Cradley Heath next week.

Tough Enough to Care will hold its first group support meeting at Haden Cross Community Fire Station in Halesowen Road on Monday December 2, at 7pm and is appealing for people to attend.

The group has been founded by former RAF weapons technician Stuart Bratt, who was left devastated by the suicides of two of his military friends within days of each other, with no warning signs.

Stuart, (pictured above right with team member Dan Browning), is appealing for men from Halesowen, Cradley Heath, Rowley Regis and the surrounding areas to come along to have a chat and a cuppa.

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The 34-year-old engineer spent seven years in the RAF as a weapons technician on Chinook helicopters, serving on active tours of duty in Iraq and Afghanistan.

He said: "My first friend's suicide was bad enough, but then the news of a second friend four days later sent me into a bit of a spiral.

"Male suicide is the biggest killer of men under 45.

"It's the whole 'man up' culture that has been branded into society for decades and it's to try and turn that around to get people talking."

The group has a Facebook page, which boasts more than 22,000 followers and a fundraising page at http://bit.ly/2OLu9Cq.

Stuart, who is married with two boys aged three and five, and lives in Dibdale Road, Dudley, said: "We aim our focus toward men in male dominated environments where the 'man up' culture is unfortunately ingrained, such as armed forces, emergency services, construction industries and sports clubs, to change the way of thinking and make it easier for men to open up.

"We offer help and support to anyone, male or female, no matter what industry or background they may have.

"We also want to offer support and guidance to those indirectly affected by mental health issues.

"People who care for those who are struggling sometimes need support too, we are here for you.

"Being ex-military myself and now an engineer, I have seen first hand on a daily basis how men refuse to open up for fear of ridicule or being taken off front line duties, this needs to stop.

"Our mission is for the subject of mental health to become as easy to talk about as the football results on a Saturday or how awful the weather is."

The group, which is run by a team of six people including founder Stuart, started in March and has already distributed 40,000 beermats with messages on encouraging people to open up and talk, in partnership with Marston's.

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This will be the first support group meeting it has held.

People can turn up on the night, or anyone who wants to talk but doesn't feel like they want to go to the meeting, can get in touch via the Facebook page.