Helping reduce mental health stigma through Men’s Sheds

Morgan Liotta

15/05/2018 2:40:14 PM

Following the Federal Government’s recent announcement of a funding injection into Men’s Sheds across Australia, newsGP spoke with a member of the community.

Men’s Sheds provide an informal setting where men can work on projects while having a casual chat about anything and everything.
Men’s Sheds provide an informal setting where men can work on projects while having a casual chat about anything and everything.

The Department of Health (DoH) recently announced it is providing funding to 90 Men’s Sheds nationally, totalling $395,000, to support men’s mental health and wellbeing.
Men’s Sheds are designed to provide a safe and welcoming environment to men across all communities – a place where they can talk, work on projects, or just share others’ company. The Australian Men’s Shed Association (AMSA) is recognised as one of Australia’s largest male-based community development organisations.
newsGP spoke to Rodney, a retiree based in the outer suburbs of Melbourne, about involvement with his local Men’s Shed.
A place to work – and to open up
Curiosity finally got the better of Rodney. After a year of wondering what sort of secret meetings were happening in his neighbourhood, he spoke to the ‘very persuasive president’ of his local Men’s Shed and signed up.
The initial appeal was simple: an opportunity to tinker away with readily available tools, with interesting conversation on the side as an added bonus.
‘Most older guys’ hobbies are fixing things around the house, and there’s a good array of tools – benchtop saws and other things all too expensive for me to buy – all available,’ Rodney said.
‘And as many screws as you want. You go and buy screws from the hardware store and pay $9 for 50, but there you can just borrow any tools you want.’
Rodney estimates the average number of men at any session in his particular shed is six to 10, except when the shed puts on a barbecue and the numbers go up to around 20. The age ranges from around 59 to 85, with men hailing from various professional backgrounds.
The demographic of Men’s Sheds members is generally older men, but some smaller communities are advocating for younger men to join in a bid to encourage them to open up and reduce the social stigma this can entail.
Although the stereotype of a man spending time in a shed fixing and building things fits in with the scenario of a Men’s Shed, Rodney said that another stereotype of men not opening up and talking about their feelings is broken when it comes to his Men’s Shed.
‘It’s always guaranteed a good yarn. We don’t need any encouragement,’ he said.
‘What is it they say about old people – we know all the answers but no one ever asks the question.’
Rodney sees his time spent at the Men’s Shed as therapeutic and recommends it to other men when he can. His selling points are unassuming – access to good quality tools and an informal social environment.
‘It’s a very pleasant atmosphere,’ he said. ‘It’s not like a family, because families are always arguing and I’ve never seen anybody argue, ever.
‘I enjoy going, because it’s not normally you can talk to very bright people all together just down the road.
‘No one says that they’re leaving, you just come and go. No one expects you to say goodbye, there is no pressure.’
Mental health initiatives like Men’s Sheds help to demonstrate a growing focus on mental health, particularly that of men.
‘Although mental illness affects both men and women, we know that men are less likely to seek help,’ the DoH said.
If nothing else, Men’s Sheds help to offer a starting point for men to have a conversation about their mental health.

department-of-health mens-health mens-sheds mental-health older-patients

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