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Laying bare stories of survival at new Men’s Health Week exhibition

A new exhibition timed to launch across Men’s Health Week has been developed around men’s lived experience stories around hardship and recovery.

Called Tackling the Challenge, the exhibition at Casula Powerhouse, puts a spotlight on 10 men from southwestern Sydney who have come through some extremely devastating times.

“These are stories of resilience and health seeking,” says project lead Henry Lim from the wellbeing team at Southwestern Sydney Local Health District, who also photographed the men for the exhibition.

“We aim to highlight health seeking strategies when people are going through hard times.

“We hope to inspire other men to do the same, to engage men in conversations around their own health, mental and physical wellbeing. The aim of the project is to normalise help seeking.”

One man, Ken Barnard, had to reframe his life after losing his 32-year-old son Aaron to suicide. Ken, 70, said his son had shown no signs that raised concerns for his wellbeing to anyone.

“Taking his life was inexplicable,” Ken says, who limped around, numbed by shock and intensely emotional for weeks and weeks with no capacity to function.

Ken explains how he managed to go on and the steps he took to accept his loss and move forward, emphasising the importance of having a regular GP that you have a connection with.

READ KEN’S STORY

A vice-captain at the All Saints Catholic College, Justin, at 15, was doing well academically when he came unwell and dropped out of school, his mental health spiralling over the next 18 months. He was diagnosed with chronic depression and anxiety, but kept it from his friends and, as things got worse, he eventually enlisted the help of a psychologist and organised a mental health care plan.

He now wants to break the stigma of mental health and challenge masculine stereotypes by seeking help and engaging in conversations with men about mental health.

“As a male from a Lebanese heritage, you are meant to be the traditional  masculine figure, however men have emotions and need to talk, which is something I can’t stress enough,” Justin says.

Ken and Justin’s stories were documented by Western Sydney University’s Centre for Male Health as part of the ‘Talking Men’s Health in South Western Sydney’ series.

The Tackling the Challenge exhibition will officially launch on the June 16 and will be open to the public from 11-19 June during Men’s Health Week.

Men’s Health Week is coordinated in Australian by Western Sydney University.

The theme of Men's Health Week 2022 is Building Healthy Environments for Men and Boys - focusing on creating physically, mentally and emotionally healthy environments in the home, workplace and in social settings.

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