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On the Low Down program illuminates social drivers of mental health

Heywood Men's Shed is sponsoring a men’s health initiative aimed at reaching blokes in rural Victoria and some metropolitan areas. 

Called, ‘On the Low Down’, the first event started at Benalla in September and ran throughout October at Torquay, Warrnambool, Portland, and Ballarat with the program resuming from 11 November at Corio before heading to Leopold, a residential eastern suburb of Geelong and Sunshine in Melbourne’s west.

Each event, held at a town hall or civic centre, runs for two hours and is split into three parts. The first looks at men and emotions. including a section on ‘what men can learn from women.’

During the second part, local mental health providers and community group leaders are given an opportunity to promote local and regional services. Then comes a more practical segment titled ‘mental health optimisation activities’ exploring the relationship between mental health and sleep, nutrition, exercise, getting out in nature, being social and ‘maintaining an observational mindset.’

Presenter and program director David Pearce describes himself as a ‘social and life scientist’.

“One of the first things I learnt upon facing the music after too many years struggling with my own mental state, was that I was not alone - plenty of us have similar struggles - much of which are social in origin,” he writes On the Low Down website.

“On the Low Down has been designed to illuminate the most prominent social and cultural drivers influencing the way that we feel, and to provide us with relevant and applicable techniques to address the root causes - not just the symptoms.”

At a Ballarat workshop on Monday, participants were challenged to re-define their views of masculinity.

"Some elements of traditional ideas of masculinity are great, there is nothing wrong with mateship and being strong, but we can go too far with the 'she'll be right' attitude. Not talking about our emotions can be counterproductive," Pearce told the gathering.  

The Healthy Men, Healthy Communities workshop explored the social determinants of mental health. Ballarat has been touched by a higher-than normal suicide rate in the area – 30% above the state average - most recently the high profile death of football legend Danny Frawley who grew up on a potato farm at Bungaree, 15 kilometres east of Ballarat.

"Whilst there has been a great deal of highly valuable research and investment that has gone into understanding the biology of mental health, in many instances the social and cultural drivers continue to stare us straight in the face," Mr Pearce said.

“People living in regional and remote areas can often find it hard to access important resources if they are even aware of them at all in the first place. Services exist but we can only access them if we know where they are, what they are and how to access them."

The goals of each On The Low Down event are to:

  • Connect participants with local and remote mental health resources
  • Improve men's ability to identify and manage social and cultural contributing mental health factors
  • Provide a list of strategies useful for optimising and overcoming barriers to good mental health
  • Frame vulnerability as a strength
  • Teach participants how to ‘be there for a mate’
  • Teach participants how to ‘be there for yourself’
  • Take home a customised preventative mental health workbook


Register for 2019 On The Low Down events at:

Corio: November 11

Leopold: November 21

Sunshine: November 27

Read: On the Low Down workshop in Ballarat promotes emotional vulnerability in men (Courier)


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