Fit sup­port ser­vices to men rather than forc­ing men to talk

Cel­e­brate and sup­port ev­ery­day blokes, writes Jonathan Bed­loe

Mercury (Hobart) - - TALKING POINT - Jonathan Bed­loe is pres­i­dent of Men’s Re­sources Tas­ma­nia.

WHO are the men that in­spire you? I don’t just mean the Ghan­dis, Man­de­las, Riewoldts or Pontings, but or­di­nary men in our ev­ery­day world.

The theme for In­ter­na­tional Men’s Day is “Let’s talk about men”. This is an im­por­tant op­por­tu­nity for pos­i­tive sto­ries of man­hood to be shared.

Our boys and young men need to see what is pos­si­ble and in­spir­ing about be­ing male, to wit­ness the strengths of mas­culin­ity, and to hear more about all the good men in our com­mu­ni­ties.

Let me tell you a story about one such man.

He’s a school­teacher — one of a dwin­dling num­ber of male pri­mary school teach­ers (only 18 per cent of pri­mary school teach­ers are male).

Af­ter decades of ser­vice, he still shares his pas­sion for learn­ing, still con­trib­utes ex­tra­or­di­nary en­ergy and time to bush­walks, bike mis­sions and school camps, where the kids ex­plore and (dare I say it) maybe even climb a few trees.

Each year he in­spires and mo­ti­vates an­other class of ea­ger minds and bod­ies in his fun-filled, colour­ful class­room.

The fe­male teach­ers of the school are just as awe­some; how­ever this often sole male teacher is a hero to many boys, girls and par­ents too.

I know of an­other man who some­time ago con­sid­ered tak­ing his own life.

He’d only re­cently ar­rived in Tas­ma­nia, but man­aged to reach out to a lo­cal men’s group for sup­port.

He found the courage to turn up and be hon­est with men he barely knew about be­ing un­em­ployed, strug­gling fi­nan­cially, be­ing so­cially dis­con­nected, and con­tem­plat­ing sui­cide.

While his readi­ness to talk was im­por­tant in get­ting through that time, he cred­its the men in the group who ac­cepted him, his sit­u­a­tion, his strug­gles and words with­out try­ing to fix him or his prob­lems.

Many men want this pow­er­ful peer sup­port, though are not sure how to go about it.

We hear a lot about men’s men­tal health.

Me­dia and ser­vices con­stantly chal­lenge men to open up and talk.

A big­ger chal­lenge though is for us as a com­mu­nity to

sup­port men through dif­fi­cult events in their lives in ways that work for them.

About 60 per cent of male suicides oc­cur as a re­sult of dif­fi­cult life events (re­lated to work, re­la­tion­ships and fi­nan­cial is­sues) rather than men­tal ill­ness.

Men ac­count for three in four suicides, yet in Tas­ma­nia we have no male health strat­egy and no male sui­cide pre­ven­tion strat­egy.

We need such strate­gies to help us think dif­fer­ently about the ways we sup­port men.

Ask­ing men to change in or­der to fit ex­ist­ing sys­tems and ser­vices that re­quire them to talk — and there­fore risk be­ing per­ceived as weak — is go­ing to take a long time.

In­stead, let’s adapt our ser­vices to em­brace and recog­nise men’s strengths.

Let’s work with com­mon male traits — such as men want­ing to solve their own prob­lems — and find ways to sup­port the pos­i­tives of those traits to make ser­vices more ef­fec­tive.

When we pro­vide male­friendly sup­port, men ben­e­fit, their fam­i­lies ben­e­fit and our whole com­mu­nity ben­e­fits.

Men’s Re­sources Tas­ma­nia will be cel­e­brat­ing and cham­pi­oning ev­ery­day he­roes like these at the Blokes BBQ Break­fast. The event will be held at the Goods Shed at Ho­bart’s Mac­quarie Point on Tues­day.

Tick­ets are avail­able at the www.mr­tas­ma­nia.org web­site.

For free sup­port 24 hours a day, con­tact Life­line on 13 11 14 or on­line at life­line.org.au or Mensline 1300 78 99 78 or on­line at mensline.org.au

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