North End sharing circle helps address 'often overlooked' men's mental wellness

A group of men in Winnipeg are hoping to shed some stereotypes on what it means to be a man and are helping each other work through their struggles in the process.

Group encourages men to talk about their struggles and support each other

Ryan Beardy runs Healing Together, a volunteer operation that meets at the Thunderbird House. He is hoping that programs like it will help men to be better brothers, fathers, partners and community members. (Walther Bernal/CBC)

A group of men in Winnipeg are hoping to shed some stereotypes on what it means to be a man and are helping each other work through their struggles in the process.

"It's an often overlooked thing... men's mental wellness, especially in a society that always has that 'man up' stereotype," said Ryan Beardy.

Beardy is the founder of the Healing Together sharing circle. Earlier this year, Beardy wanted to set up a support group for men struggling to find help in the city.

In April, he started scheduling meetings at the Thunderbird House on Main Street. Now Beardy hosts a sharing circle every Sunday from 5-7 pm. 

"Basically it's a place for us to be able to unpack and to be able to talk, address ourselves and some of the issues that we go through in life in an environment that's supportive, kind of confidential and where we support each other," said Beardy.

The participants pass around an eagle feather during the sharing circle. (Walther Bernal/CBC)

"I think it's important that the men take on this work on their own for healing, to be better people, to be better fathers, be better brothers, be better parents, be better community members."

Beardy grew up in Winnipeg's North End and spent a good portion of his life in the criminal justice system. He spent time in Stony Mountain federal penitentiary.

Since he has been released, Beardy has gone back to university and has been involved in the community, actively encouraging other Indigenous men with similar backgrounds to also get involved. 

"I myself came a long way in terms of healing," said Beardy. 

"I think if society's willing so freely to believe in me, I think we need to believe in other men as well."

'If it's positive and helps you, then do it'

Gene Malcolm was recently released from the Winnipeg Remand Centre after being acquitted for a manslaughter charge.

Malcolm grew up with Beardy and reached out to him to start attending the voluntary Healing Together sharing circle.

"It helps because there's not too many other people that want to help you and see you do good," said Malcolm. 

Since being released last month, Malcolm is trying to stay clear of the lifestyle that landed him in jail previously.

Gene Malcolm recently got out of the Winnipeg Remand Centre. The Healing Together support group is one of the few places that he has found help since he has been released. (Walther Bernal/CBC)

"When you get fed up… you want to straighten your life out, instead of doing time all the time, fighting battles that ain't yours, that kind of life. It helps a lot if you have support," said Malcolm.

He said that he hasn't had much support since he's been out, but he is trying to find housing and hopes to get back into school or find a job.

This past Sunday was his second Healing Together meeting. 

"It's good to help I guess, because I see people doing it and so it makes you want to do it," he said. "If it's positive and helps you, then do it."

Beardy said being able to give back to others who are in a similar situation is the goal. He plans on applying for grants that will allow him to rent out space, run programming and continue helping men in his community.


Lenard Monkman is Anishinaabe from Lake Manitoba First Nation, Treaty 2 territory. He has been an associate producer with CBC Indigenous since 2016. Follow him on Twitter: @Lenardmonkman1