A YORK policeman who suffered from PTSD after the death of his brother is running a 'Safespace' project for men at gyms in the city.

Rich Best, 39, who lives in York, lost his brother, Mark, in 2007 to suicide, and suffered with PTSD and depression as a result. 

Back in 2020 he took on a push-up challenge to raise awareness of PTSD, depression and anxiety, challenging Dwayne 'The Rock' Johnson to join him.

Now, Rich, who volunteers for men's mental health charity Menfulness, is running the 'Safespace' project to try and get men mentally and physically fit.

Rich said: "I'm approaching gyms and fitness centres that have a great community atmosphere, that hold the same values and beliefs as Menfulness and make people feel welcome.

"Menfulness promotes men getting moving, staying active and talking about what is troubling them. The charity runs a number of different events where like minded individuals can attend and meet new people and promote opening up and talking about their issues.

"The idea for 'Safespace' came about through my own journey with fitness and mental health as starting a fitness journey or changing lifestyles all together can be a daunting thought. The idea of going into a gym with having no experience can be intimidating and off putting. The fear of being judged or ridiculed can put most people off for good.

"I spoke with a member of Menfulness who spoke of losing weight and was proud to say that he had joined a gym, however when I asked what he was doing and what a session looked like, it sounded like he was paying a membership to use their treadmill. I asked if he used free weights or any other of the equipment and his reply was that he wouldn’t go to the free weight areas for fear of the “Roid heads”."

Rich said that's when the idea came to him and he wanted to change this point of view as there is a stigma around people that do workout and look after themselves, "not everyone who uses free weights uses steroids," he said.

"A lot of the time people that go to the gym, go to clear their head and work on themselves. There is a massive correlation between working out and feeling good which is a great benefit to mental health," said Rich.

Rich said that he's teamed up with Better Leisure and is promoting the 'Safespace' message by launching a partnership on October 29 with Tom Drake who is a personal trainer at their Energise facility in Acomb.

York Press: Tom Drake from Better Leisure who is a personal trainer at their Energise facility in Acomb with Rich BestTom Drake from Better Leisure who is a personal trainer at their Energise facility in Acomb with Rich Best (Image: UGC)

Tom is going to run sessions for our members twice a month, giving up his own time to take the sessions which will be different each month.

Menfulness use the Meetup app to promote their activities and only ask for small donations towards the charity to help men get into counselling when they need help.

Rich said: "The project is well under way and we’re looking to contact other gyms across York to see if they’re interested in promoting the project. All we ask is that the gyms promote our message, there is no expectation, but we do ask if they bare the charity in mind for fundraising events. We’re happy to meet gym owners/managers to talk through potential partnerships."

Rich is also working with Al Chambers at Legions boxing gym, who is one of the owners of the gym generously puts on a session for Menfulness every third Thursday of each month between 9pm - 10pm.

To get in touch email yorkmenfulness@gmail.com