This men thing is a big topic at the moment isn't it! And rightly so when you look at the suicide rates. It's the number one killer of men aged 15-44 in Australia.
I am a country girl at heart and the quintessential tomboy who grew up ditching the dolls and taking charge of my brother's Tonka trucks. Truth be known I probably dug a hole with the excavator and buried those dolls. 😂
While I have some amazing female friends, I have always understood and related well (sometimes better) with men. Not surprisingly, the majority of my working life has been in male dominated industries like logistics, operations, construction, warehousing, etc and often with just me and a swag of Aussie blokes; the ones that swear like troopers and call each other every name under the sun but still genuinely care about each other (even though they wouldn't be seen dead admitting it). The jobs themselves were never that interesting, but the people were and this was a working environment that I felt completely at home in. Looking back I think my purpose here was more about helping the guys I worked with believe in themselves, show them that life is not completely shit and to provide a space for them to speak openly about whatever issues they had at the time rather than being a wizard behind a desk and computer screen.
One particular organisation I worked for that I absolutely loved was a construction company. I was working in a big old stinky, hot warehouse with an awesome group of chaps. It was like one big argumentative, hilariously funny at times and caring family. We worked together, we had morning tea and lunch every day together, we cleaned our shed together every Friday, we BBQed together, we laughed a lot together, we yelled at each other (also a lot) and I got to know every single one of them on a very personal level. I don't know why exactly, but my office seemed to be a safe haven for everyone to come and sit and tell me their life story. From the life story came the chats about their daily struggles. I didn't do much other than listen (and probably tell them to stop drinking so much coke and eating white bread sandwiches loaded with butter and cheese) but they had somewhere to go and get their "stuff" off their chest.
One of the guys there has left an imprint on my mind forever. Mick was the company's heavy duty mechanic, he was about 50 and he'd been there for a few years before I started. He was super negative and mostly grumpy, but I really liked him. I won't tell you what his fellow workers called him, but it was seriously unsavoury and I know he didn't like it. Mick was always fixing old broken things, like brooms and rakes and dog kennels and giving them to me to take home.
Anyway, one day he came into my office and told me his story. His Mum died when he was 7 and his Dad moved him up to Wiluna (North and in the middle of desert nothingness WA). Pretty soon after his Dad became an alcoholic and basically stopped caring for him. Mick hated it in Wiluna and when he was 13 he ran away back to Perth. Sadly his Dad never tried to find him. He lived under the Causeway Bridge until he was 16 getting food however he could until at some point he realised he didn't want to continue living like this. He couldn't read or write so he decided he'd try and get a job labouring. He found a man who took him on and his job was to dig holes. When he was 21 he met his now wife who spent hours and hours teaching him how to read and write. It made me see him in a whole new light when I watched him slowly writing product codes on scraps of paper when he needed to place orders for stock. It'd almost bring tears to my eyes when he asked me how to spell something. I was so proud of him for getting to where he was. When I met him he owned two houses, had amazing children and was still happily married. Every morning he'd come in and say hello to me and I'd check in on his negativity levels and we'd have a laugh about that. It got to the point where he'd even pick up his own negativity and he'd say to me, "I'm being negative aren't it?". It was a sad day when I left that job because I knew I probably wouldn't see most of them again. Lots of fond memories and I think of them all often.
There are more and more organisations, communities, meeting places and groups for young males and men to join which can be profoundly life changing, not only for them, but their families and friends around them. We need to keep working on these stoic beliefs that men have around masculinity; it's okay to ask for help, it's not a burden you must wear, it's very human and normal to feel and show emotion and you don't always have to be brave and tough. None of this is "unmanly"!
Effectively I've just written a whole lot of nothing outside of telling a story about Men's Health. But it is an area of concern and genuine interest to me and I hope that I can contribute in some way. In the meantime, and maybe this is all you really need to read is a list of some organisations, books, workshops, articles, etc I've read or heard positive things about for men, teens/youths. I'm always interested to share information so if there's something you've done worth mentioning let me know.
A BOOK WORTH READING
Man Up: Surviving Modern Masculinity, by Jack Urwin
This book is funny, interesting and providing you don't have an issue with a regular splash of four letter words you'll enjoy this read!
Jack Urwin's father died just before Jack turned 10. Being male, he never really learned to talk about this with any kind of sincerity. His grief stayed with him through his teens, slowly becoming depression. Now 24 and a journalist whose recent Vice article, A Stiff Upper Lip Is Killing British Men - described as 'fabulous' by Irvine Welsh - became a viral sensation, Urwin explores what it means to be a man now. He traces crises of masculinity from our grandfathers' inability to deal with the horrors of war to the mob mentality of football terraces or Fight Club and the disturbing rise of mental health problems among men today.
Smart, funny and friendly, but with a wisdom that belies the author's age, Man Up is the start of an essential conversation for men, exploring why we have perpetuated the myth of masculinity - and how we can challenge it and change it.
For those of you that live in Australia and have children aged 10-18 (boys and girls) there is an organisation called Reach (http://www.reach.org.au/) who I've heard amazing things about. They run workshops for young people and are run by young people. Quoted from Jim Stynes (Australian footballer who died of cancer a few years ago) who co-founded this organisation, "Reach believes that every young person has the support and self-belief they need to fulfil their potential & dare to dream and aims to encourage young people, no matter what their circumstances,"
REAL EDUCATION - Real Teens
It aims to improve the health and wellbeing of members and reduce the number of men who are at risk from preventable health issues that may emanate from isolation.
MEN'S WELLBEING, Men Supporting Men [18-80+ years]
Open Ground allows men from a wide range of backgrounds to connect and forge new friendships and to develop as a man through a series of high quality workshops and activities over the course of the weekend.
REAL EDUCATION - Real Man [they also run a women's program]
Support for wounded, ill or injured defence personnel or ex-serving defence personnel.
Also, I have attached a weblink below to an interesting report worth reading. It outlines the findings based on an investigation that was conducted by UNSW into the experiences of men with suicidal behaviour and depression. I know reports like this can be a tedious read, but this is easy reading and has some really important information for all to read.