Frank Davey, 49, locum GP, Penzance
Could you tell me about the work you do?
I work as a GP with homeless, drug, alcohol and mental health services and it’s apparent to me that so often we’re just providing a sticking plaster on an underlying trauma. That’s why I find working with ABOB so rewarding; I am aware that ABOB’s work is often getting closer to the roots of trauma and intergenerational problems and, by bringing these to light, men may find the power to change deep rooted behaviour patterns.
How did you hear about ABoB?
It was serendipitous – the information just came along at the right time. I was at the leisure centre with my son and someone I knew was also there. He told me about ABoB at a juncture when I was looking for more meaning and purpose in my life, as well as for something that served my local community. When I went to the ABoB meeting, there were about five other men I knew there which made me feel at home!
How was the ‘Beyond The Hero’ weekend for you?
It was very humbling, moving and it felt like something that I’d been longing for. I’ve done quite a bit of personal development work but this was so real and deep. I found that very satisfying. I’d done other ‘men’s work’ but I really wanted to do something that was in service to the community as well as my own personal work. As a Doctor, I’m often prescribing or referring patients to other practitioners where they go deeper, this was an opportunity for me to witness those deeper stories and my own. For me, it provided a safe place for me to truly express myself. It was a wake up call for me in terms of being able to trust men.
What about becoming a mentor?
I went on to do the ABOB mentor training which was very interesting for me as I do a lot of teaching in my work, and mentoring is very different to teaching; it’s all about allowing the young man to evolve himself with a little guidance or direction. It’s all about standing on the same level rather than above. So, there was a lot for me to learn. Also, we got to consider what might trigger us in a situation with a mentee. For me it was looking at being from a privileged background, with a posh accent and being a GP – I realized that I was worried about being judged for that, and also for not being ‘street’ enough. I had to work out how I would respond.
How did you actually become a mentor?
Well, I wasn’t planning on being one so soon, in fact I told the co-ordinators that I was too busy at that time to take on a mentee. However, I was staffing a weekend and one young man stayed seated when it came to choosing mentors. I asked him why he hadn’t chosen a mentor and he said he was hoping that I would become his mentor… I couldn’t say no could I! That was Jamie and he did become my mentee. There’s a bit of magic in that for me..
How did it go with Jamie?
It was great that he could be so flexible and committed. He actually drove 40 miles to see me every week. It wasn’t all straightforward because I had to deal with my own stuff around being a mentor. I found myself being perhaps a bit pushy as I was so keen for him ‘to get on’. Jamie would agree then change his mind a few weeks later. I didn’t like that because I felt like we had an agreement. Of course, Jamie was teaching me not to be so goal-oriented. I had to back off and learn to be more of a witness. In the end, I think we were more co-mentors for each other! Jamie certainly asked me some questions which required some reflection; it was a little uncomfortable at the time and I’m grateful for that now.
One of the most successful meetings was when we cooked together. That went really well. We talked as we cooked. We had a shared purpose. And was more conducive to talking personally too.
How do you find the weekly ABoB meetings?
They’re like my weekly emotional nourishment! I enjoy connecting to the other men on a deeper level; different to the relationships I have with friends and colleagues. There are often 25 men there. We are a thriving community. ABoB really are a new set of friends in my life. But the most important purpose for me is serving those young men in our communities that need support; I think it could get all a bit inward-focused otherwise.
I’ve also done some personal re-evaluating and I really do feel as though I’m a better dad and husband as a result.