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Getting under the bonnet of men's mental health

Andamooka, in far north South Australia, is the setting of a new illustrated ebook that explores men’s relationships with each other in an Australian outback opal town.

Released on September 11, author Heather Gordon and illustrator Trish Curnow explore the ‘informal supports that enable men to front up each morning for an iced coffee and a chat about the weather and the news’.

Andamooka Bill and the Lights on the Hill centres around the partly true story of Andamooka Bill, a regular to the so-called ‘Bonnet Club’ – a male-friendly, organic meet-up that underlines the importance of informal mental health support networks.

Basically, the local men turn up each day to chat about anything over the bonnets of their cars.

Local remote area nurse Tim Retallick says there is a strong need for men to combat isolation with strong social networks as a means to reduce stigma and build resilience.

“The Bonnet Club members are informally taking action against depression, anxiety and suicide. Even if that's not their agenda,” he says.

Alice Springs counsellor Phil Walcott says the book is a ‘fitting metaphor the Men’s Sheds movement around Australia reflects.’

The importance of working things out, shoulder to shoulder, is simple and powerful, the overarching message of the book.

“Men's mental health can be a difficult route to navigate given that most men don't like to acknowledge issues around anxiety, depression or suicidal ideation. Whilst many men may perceive these as a 'weakness', acknowledging them is actually a strength. They are a common phenomenon in cultures throughout communities around the planet,” says Walcott.

Men accessing support services when they are available (more difficult in regional and remote areas) can be a challenge. Advances in digital technology are making these services more accessible each and every day. Men and boys accessing services when they are available can be a challenge... albeit one worth persevering."

Heather Gordon said her meeting with Bonnet Club members gave her a glimpse into their personal resilience and the importance of informal support systems.

“When you realise that more men die from suicide than the national road toll and mental health services are sparse in rural and remote regions, this should be a call to action,” she says.

Andamooka Bill and the Lights on the Hill published by Centred in Choice, is now available as an Ebook via Booktopia for $8.79. 


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