A men’s mental health group is marking its second year in business with a new office providing it with further headroom for growth.

Space North East has opened its first office and podcasting studio at the North East BIC, after seeing the number of men tapping into its support increase significantly over recent months.

Founded in April 2022 by social entrepreneur, James Fildes, the community interest company (CIC) was set up to help men suffering from depression, loneliness and anxiety by providing early intervention and prevention.

Initially, it facilitated informal, weekly get-togethers for groups of up to 12 men to share personal experiences of battling poor mental health, in a relaxed, comfortable environment.

As word began to spread however and more men began reaching out, it wasn’t long before its groups had become oversubscribed, and the organisation began to diversify its offering.

The launch of a ‘Walking to Get Blokes Talking’ campaign – which was supported by Sunderland AFC legend, Kevin Ball – proved a huge hit and led to the launch of weekly Space to Walk events which take place every Saturday morning from Roker’s Fausto Coffee at 9am.

So too have weekly men’s yoga classes, and with over 250 men now having tapped into its support in its first two years and plans to reach out and support more men in the pipeline, James is hopeful that the new office will mark an exciting new chapter for the company.

“I set up Space North East after suffering with poor mental health and depression myself,” James said.

“I was on the waiting list for support however when I was looking for something in the interim, I couldn’t find any groups or support out there, so I thought, why not set something up myself?

“It’s amazing now when I look back. I still remember thinking in that first session “will anyone turn up?” and now we have supported over 250 people and are continuing to grow.

“I can’t thank everyone who has supported us enough for their support. We really couldn’t have done it without them.”

James was initially running the business out of the BIC’s coworking space, which allows entrepreneurs and workers on the go to share a communal workspace and network with other like-minded people.

The opening of the new office however will enable Space North East to launch its own corporate and school engagement programmes, as well as its own podcast to break down the stigma of men’s mental health.

“We knew that if we were to continue growing at the rate we are and supporting more men then we would eventually need our own office space and the BIC was just perfect,” James said.

“It’s got plenty of free parking for people visiting and there are business and social enterprise advisers on site who we can speak to should we ever need advice and support.

“It’ll also provide us with our own, dedicated space where we can speak to people confidentially and shoot our own podcasts, which is something we’re really keen to start.

“We’ve had some really positive conversations with employers in relation to our corporate engagement programme too, including a FTSE 250 business and some of the region’s largest employers, and the new office will be key to ensuring we can deliver all of this. It’s a really exciting period for us.”

The BIC’s social enterprise support in Sunderland helps the development of the social economy within the city through the Wear Together Initiative, working with local residents and groups to start a social enterprise or co-operative and help the city’s social enterprises to develop and grow.

James also received support from the BIC’s Veterans RV programme, which was set up to help veterans use their diverse skillsets to set up their own businesses.

Paul McEldon OBE, chief executive of the North East BIC, said: “It has been a great privilege supporting James on his journey and seeing him go from starting out to establishing Space as a well-known brand in the city and now going on to open its own office.

“I have no doubt the support it provides has already helped save countless lives and that it will continue to do so as it expands its reach with the launch of new services and the podcast.

“I think I speak for everyone at the BIC when I say we would all like to wish them all the best for the future and they will prove a very welcome addition to our business community here in Sunderland.”

The Wear Together Initiative has received £312,000 from the Government’s UK Shared Prosperity Fund Programme which is managed in the city by Sunderland City Council on behalf of the Sunderland Partnership.

Peter McIntyre, executive director of city development at Sunderland City Council, said: “The Wear Together initiative was set up to help grow the city’s social enterprise sector and Space North East is a fantastic example of how it is doing just that.

“It is an organisation which is driving real societal change by improving the lives of others, while also growing into a sustainable organisation of its own.

“It is a fantastic success story for the city and we are thrilled to have been able to support James on his journey.”

For more information on Space North East, visit: http://www.spacenortheast.org or follow @SpaceNorthEast on social media.

For more information on the BIC, visit: https://www.ne-bic.co.uk/