The Men’s Health Sector came together at Men’s Health Connected on Wednesday to reflect on advances in men’s health and what needs to happen to improve outcomes for men and boys in Australia.
Beginning the day, Australian Men’s Health Forum President Greg Millan outlined the changes he had witnessed since the first men’s health conference was held in Melbourne in 1995 and the first National Male Health Policy launched in 2010.
He was followed in the opening address by researcher Jim Reed of Resolve Strategic, sharing results from recent research canvassing people’s views of men’s health issues.
“Research found that workplace accidents, parental access, suicide and heart disease are seen more as men’s issues,” he reported, adding that 62% of people felt these matters should be tackled as a priority.
The top issues were ‘icons’ that gained immediate recognition and traction with Australians, ‘head-nod issues’ that have instant recognition.
“The issues involving death are most effective at garnering engagement and empathy.”
AMHF CEO Glen Poole noted that Australia was the first country in the world to have a Men’s Health Policy, but from 2013-2016, nothing happened to bring it to life.
“There’s nothing to be had by waging a war between women’s health and men’s health,” he said.
“But we can look at how women’s health is done for a particular gender. It does demonstrate the successes that can be had. It demonstrates that, at a political level, we are still not in the narrative. A lot of time there is money going into men, but not being spun at a political narrative into men’s health.
“If men’s health is not a thing in the minds of politicians, it can drop off the radar.
“The Australian public does care about men’s health. Jim’s research helps us understand how the public does make sense of men’s issues.”
Working with men online
The second session of the day looked at the successes of working with men online, in light of the changes imposed by COVID-19 in 2020.
Many programs and services were compelled to adapt to a locked down world, with many positive and unexpected developments.
Asher Packman, from Warrior Within, reported that the circle work his organisation delivered from St Kilda in Melbourne, took on an international flavour during the pandemic and has continued to expand.
“We had 80 to 90 men showing up for those circles, from 11 countries. A lot of those countries were in lockdown and men were going through really hard stuff,” he said.
Brendan O’Dowd, a counsellor with Incolink and working specifically with men in the construction industry, said his team had seen great success delivering digital programs to men who didn’t typically enjoy learning in an academic environment.
“That’s why a lot of them become tradespeople,” he said, adding that 52% of men in the construction industry were more likely to take their lives than any other workforce in Australia.
“It worked when we could tell a story, put up pictures and play videos.” Initially there was a reluctance to talking with counsellors on zoom, skype or the phone, but the men soon found communicating this way was safer than talking face-to-face.
Similarly, Mentoring Men discovered that geography was no longer a barrier when the non-profit organisation pivoted to online.
“A guy in Melbourne is mentoring a guy in Chile,” said founder Ian Westmoreland
Walk and talks, virtual breakfasts, business meetings, open forums, training and mentoring were all possible in the new normal, with men spending 40% more time than women watching videos on the internet.
Raising money for men's health
Turning to fund-raising, Top Blokes founder Melissa Abu-Gazaleh took listeners through the experience of moving from a volunteer-based outfit designing programs for young males in schools, to a fully-fledged and financially sustainable organisation with a fund-raising team of six.
In order to attract grants, Top Blokes first “put up facts about what men need to know, facts about young males.”
While education was important alongside evidence and case studies to prove an organisation’s worth, so was taking the step to employ a dedicated fundraising resource.
When Top Blokes did this, they moved from being a $200,000-turnover-a-year organisation to $600,000.
“A good fundraising manager brings in 6 to 10 x their income,” Melissa said.
The way ahead
The final session gathered the collective energy and passion of grassroots dynamos Jeremy Forbes from HALT, Myndfit’s Nick Sutherland, John Milham from Mentoring Men and the founder of Tomorrow Man, Tom Harkin.
Jeremy, whose organisation focuses on blue collar workers and hard-to-reach guys, said the men’s health landscape was getting better.
“We’re reaching that point where there’s a massive campaign around raising awareness. The next phase is education.”
Agreed Nick Sutherland, “Too much awareness becomes part of the issue.
"We need to learn what to do and action that ourselves. We have as many problems as we think we have, I like to be glass half full.
The signs are really bright.”
John Milham declared that, “all of us are the answer," adding, "I believe every man in the country needs a mentor or access to one. We all need to be all in to help each other.”
Tom Harkin believed we need to give competencies to young boys and men. It would be hard to change the face of men’s mental health without doing so.
“Awareness is useless unless you have the competency to understand your own self. Young people are a huge hope.”
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Men's Health Connected was hosted by the Australian Men's Health Forum.
Full videos of each session will be made available at a later date.
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