The Mojo Programme: helping men transform their lives

by Derek McDonnell

Mojo is a 12 week skills building and personal development training programme for men who are in distress and want to make changes to their lives.  The idea is that men attending our programmes feel empowered to transform their lives and to create positive social change.

Through Mojo, men learn to build their mental and physical fitness, set goals and develop life plans.  The group setting provides a space for men to connect and make friendships with other men that continue long after the programme finishes.  During the 12 week programme, the men link with local services that can support them to return to work, education or volunteering.

 “There is a lot of information out there. I now have my CV updated and have really started to look for jobs.  I even went for an interview last week.  I didn’t get the job, but I’m back out there which is as a result of Mojo”.

Mojo was developed to respond to the high numbers of men dying by suicide (in Ireland, 80% of those that die by suicide are men) and to address the lack of engagement by men in community-based services, especially those with a mental health focus.  The pilot began in 2011 (in South Dublin) bringing together organisations that work across primary care, mental health, employment, education, volunteering, health and welfare.

“It is so different from the work that I do that it was really satisfying to do something so innovative”

The first phase explored why men were in distress and why they did not access local services.  Isolation, Emasculation and Shame of Accessing Services emerged as key themes for men.  The exploration also found that services were working in silos with an obvious divide between statutory and community led organisations.

The second phase focused on building the capacity of local organisations to work together; agreeing interagency working protocols so that statutory and non-statutory services could operate with parity of partnership and develop a service that men would want to attend.

The third phase engaged men on our training programme that addresses the key themes of isolation, emasculation and shame of accessing services.   The programme is divided into two mornings, Wednesday from 10am to 1 pm the men learn tools to build and maintain their mental fitness and Thursday from 10 am to 2 pm they explore options to build a life they are happy with and are introduced to ways of keeping fit.

“Prior to Mojo, I stayed in my house for five years without hardly leaving”

The Programme is underpinned by the principles of Community Development, Adult Education and Mental Health Recovery.  Men on our programmes are treated as equals and are encouraged to become their own experts.  While all facilitators are qualified and experienced in their field, they identify as people (not experts) who also have times in their lives where they feel challenged.  Feedback from the men highlights that our approach helps to build trust which allows them to take more risks in the group, facilitating stronger group bonding and exploration of emerging issues.

“We all threw our stuff on the table, the staff were the gravy that brought it together”.

Crucially, the men attending Mojo are the primary focus of our work. Every decision or change made to our programming must, in the first instance, be of benefit to the men – not the staff, funders or organisations albeit we very much care about them too!

 “We were listened to and treated like adults”

Mojo is an evidence based, innovative intervention producing outstanding results for our men including:

  • * 83% report reduced depression and anxiety
  • * 90% retention rates on the programme
  •  * 70% progress on to work or education
  •  * 4 out of 5 men report an increase in self esteem

Mojo also:

  • * reduces social isolation and increases connections to family and community
  • * positively impacts on self-harm and harmful drug/alcohol use
  • *reduces the overall level of risk among the men
  • *has waiting lists of men wanting to attend our programme
  • * value for money – for every €1 invested Mojo returns €4.96 in social value.

“Thanks to Mojo I’ve reconnected with the world again”.

About the author

Derek McDonnell is CEO and Co-Founder of MOJO. For more information visit our website  or email:  or phone +353 87 66 00 872.

You can vote now (7th May 20th June) for a Male Psychology Section of the BPS.
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