Men of Aspiration: helping men bounce back from adversity
Michael McCusker has drawn upon his own adverse experiences of mental health, sport and the criminal justice system to start Men of Aspiration – a platform for men seeking a change of direction in life.
The Northern Irishman created Men of Aspiration to reach out to other men who were struggling with their mental health and stress during the Covid-19 lockdown.
Michael’s recent difficulties are perhaps more acute than most. He lost his home, livelihood and reputation following a series of catastrophic business decisions which led to a conviction in July for fraud and a 15-month suspended sentence.
Living through the pandemic on benefits and with two children to support, plus an impending court case, Michael took to writing as a form of catharsis and has so far produced 12 articles totalling just under 25,000 words detailing his reflections on all the events leading up to his current situation.
His deep self-analysis also takes in his childhood experiences when, following trial spells as a promising teenage footballer with Southampton, Leicester City and Millwall, he returned home to Belfast and went to a rave. An incident there saw him end up in Hydebank Wood young offenders’ institution.
He pulls no punches in his writing, talking of the “major f***-ups” and “monumental decisions” that have punctuated various points in his life and eventually saw him hit rock bottom. Helping others in need of a hand (especially men of middle age like himself, who are in the high-risk suicide category) is now part of his process of bouncing back.
Michael says: “I have done a lot of soul-searching, reflection and analysis; asked myself a lot of questions and come to a lot of brutal truths. The best way to get that all out was to write it all down and develop this Men of Aspiration platform.
“The platform is based around sharing information and the effects of a routine, positive habits and physical exercise and fitness.
“Since the start of March I’ve gone through 50-odd books and audio-books, many of them sporting autobiographies, which detail people’s grit, resilience and redemption stories. They have all helped and inspired me to share my own story of how I’m feeling and reach a wider audience.”