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Doing it Tough round table outlines effective ways of engaging with men

Three male-friendly services share insights into what works when engaging men.

How do we make male-friendly services work for men in all their diversity? And what can we do to improve the current landscape for supporting men through difficult times?

Three leaders who provide non-clinical frontline support to men in Australia shared insights at the first Doing It Tough? online round table on 9 April, attended by more than 80 participants, including health service providers and those with lived experience of suicide.

Doing it Tough? is a website that lists 150 groups and community organisations that offer services to men and is funded by NSW Health.

Brad Parker, CEO of Mates in NSW, said men were now 8 x more likely to die by suicide in construction than an accident at work. The Mates suicide prevention program relies on teaching men lifesaving interventions and is widely encouraged by employers.

“We’re utilising the relationships men have with each other and giving them a toolbox with some life skills,” he said of the evidence-based program, which includes a 24/7 helpline, training and support.

“We get access to people in the workplace, and we’re a holistic program.”

Mongrels Men founder Tim Hewson said incorporating physical activity into male interactions was the key to the success of his enterprise, which started in 2019 around Sydney’s northern beaches.

“We are always making sure there is something movement based because of the connection between movement and mental health,” said Tim.

Mongrels Men aims to remove all the obstacles to men joining. There is no cost, no membership and regularity of events and meet-ups. “We meet, we move, and we chat over coffee,” he said, noting that MM even pays for the coffee.

“We don’t force conversations. We keep it casual. We are trying to tackle things like loneliness, not just suicide. We always start and finish with a hug.”

Carpenter Bruno Efoti discovered a profound difference in how Australian men dealt with their challenges compared to the support he experienced growing up in a small village in Tonga. “At home we were able to talk about things openly, especially the hard things,” he said.

Tradies in Sight brings men together with
an on-site BBQ. 

He noticed how Aussie men could not share their troubles and started Tradies in Sight six years ago to give young tradies a voice.

“I want them to be seen, I want everyone to carry themselves in a place where they are accepted, validated and affirmed.” Bruno studied counselling to augment his development in the healing and helping sector, drawing on men’s love of a good meal to open up.

“We use food at all events we do, I run a BBQ or cook in the van,” he said. Tradies in Sight brings specialists on-site to teach young men how to manage their finances and how to control an addiction, such as gambling.and how to get control of an addiction, for example gambling.

“They do up a simple budget as an example for these young fellas,” he explains. “These kids have never been taught. Being compassionate is at the heart of what we do. Meeting our lads where they are at has been a key factor. Having that empathy and knowing when they need to take the next step.”

Doing it Tough facilitator Glen Poole, CEO of the Australian Men’s Health Forum, asked participants to share their views on what worked when engaging men, what barriers they experienced and what could be done differently. Among the many responses was a common refrain: funding for male-focused programs.

“Some of the programs are well funded and some aren’t funded,” said Bruno, describing the situation in Dubbo, where his program operates.

“We’ve had to find other means to find support. We are not government funded at all. We wouldn’t be doing this if it wasn’t working and if it wasn’t engaging the people we need to engage. Lack of funding is a huge barrier.”

For MATES, which receives industry support through multiple partnerships, one of the biggest challenges is interpreting its training to other populations and breaking down the stigma of suicide and mental health among culturally diverse groups. Mostly, he said, translations were done by a leader within the group.

Mongrels Men is a registered charity; every dollar raised goes towards community programs. Tradies in Sight also relies on donations.

AMHF is the peak body for men’s health in Australia and connects individuals and organisations that provide services that help men and boys. The Doing it Tough? website was produced by AMHF in partnership with Suicide Prevention Australia. 

AMHF’s GUIDE TO MALE-FRIENDLY SERVICES identifies some of the key characteristics common to health initiatives that work for men, both in Australia and overseas.

You can download it here.


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