Fit support services to men rather than forcing men to talk
Celebrate and support everyday blokes, writes Jonathan Bedloe
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