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Business owner launches mental health talks for free

A business owner in Middleton is inviting local residents to his café for a ‘chat’ to get men talking about mental health.

Ian Kilgannon, who is originally from Oldham but whose three shops are set up in Middleton, said he felt compelled to do something to get men talking about mental health after seeing the “ripple” effects suicide can have on people.

Operating from his cafe, Mrs K’s Kaff, Lakeland Court in Middleton, Mr Kilgannon said “the door will be open for any man who wants or needs to talk” every Sunday from July 31 with free tea and coffee available as well as an “ear to listen to and a shoulder to help take some weight away from you.”

He said the idea to spark the conversation had been on his mind for a while after he noticed friends became adversely affected during lockdown but found the “little things” helped to alleviate their struggle.

However, Mr Kilgannon was after UFC star, Paddy Pimblett, dedicated his motivated fight on Saturday (July 23) to his friend who had tragically taken his own life the day before.

The cafe is open to anyone who needs to talk.

Pimblett said in a post-match interview: “Listen, if you’re a man and you’ve got weight on your shoulders and think the only way you can solve it is by killing yourself, people speak to someone. Speak to anyone.

“I know I’d rather my mate cry on my shoulder than go to his funeral next week.

“So, please let’s get rid of this stigma and men, start talking.”

Mr Kilgannon said the passionate speech “struck a nerve” with him and inspired him to do something the next day.

“The speech resonated with me and I couldn’t sleep on Saturday night.

“I decided if I can just help one person – if we can help each other – it can make a world of difference.”

Mr Kilgannon said he works six days a week but plans on dedicating his only day off, Sunday, to opening the cafe between the hours 9 and 12 for anyone in the community who needs to offload and talk about their struggles.

His wife, Andrea, is also looking to set one up for women one evening a week so that the pair can accommodate for all though Mr Kilgannon stressed he would never turn a woman away if she came to him for help but that she might feel more comfortable speaking to another woman.

The Oldham Times: Ian Kilgannon and his wife Andrea do a lot for the Middleton community.Ian Kilgannon and his wife Andrea do a lot for the Middleton community.

The dad said his family who work hard in the Middleton community hope to keep the conversation going at the cafe for as long as residents find it useful.

He added: “Making that decision (to take your own life) has a ripple effect on hundreds of people, including family members and friends.

“I’ve seen the effects of it.

“I’d hate to be in that position where you feel down and you feel as though there’s no way out but it all starts with one conversation.

“We can do that without it being a big step to go to places like MIND which I imagine must seem quite daunting.

“We’ll be a stepping stone towards that help – a stepping stone to talk and that initial shoulder to lean on.

“I’m no expert, I’m just a normal bloke, but I’m talking to anyone is better than them taking their life.”

He said he has been in touch with mental health support charities to help him with his efforts including Andy’s Man Club and Well Mental UK which are speaking to him and providing leaflets so that he’s not “going in blind”.

But his “you talk, I’ll listen” initiative isn’t the only means through which the family man works to help the local community.

From Ian’s Donatello’s, the business provides free pizzas and hot meals to homeless charities such as Cold Hands Warm Hearts every single week.

“It’s about giving back – we’ll never back out of our commitments to the Middleton community.

“We can’t stop the homeless situation but we can try to make people a bit more comfortable by helping them – and it’s the same situation (with mental health).”

He insists he and his wife Andrea are “not special people” but said they just like to help.

“We’ve all been there”, he added.

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