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Opening up to lived experience at Men’s Health Connected

The power of lived experience was on display at Men’s Health Connected on Thursday as men with deeply personal stories talked about the importance of opening up. 

One man survived a freak accident that had shattered his will to keep going. Another went spiralling into a dark place after a painful marriage bust-up. Then there was Tim Daly, whose extreme anxiety over life events and work pressure led to him losing his job. “I was on the verge of collapsing whenever there was stress in my life,” he said.

“People could understand when I collapsed at work, it was a physical manifestation.” But once he was diagnosed with a mental condition, their support disappeared. He took eight weeks off work and no one knew what to say. Upon his return, Tim was offered a redundancy.

The silver lining was spending more time with his wife, who was dealing with multiple sclerosis, and starting This Is My Brave, which uses live performance for people to share stories of a lived experience with mental illness. “The way to break down stigma is to relate to people with a mental illness as a peer,” he said.

Carl Mason, 35, spent most of his adult life dealing with depression and anxiety until he was diagnosed with ADHD and OCD, and encouraged to see a GP. “I went away from the first point of contact feeling very upset and I didn’t feel heard,” he said.

Three GPs and four psychologists later he found the right health practitioner, urged on by family and friends to persist. Carl believes most guys will only reach out once when they are at a low point. “If they don’t get help, they never reach out again.”

He found a greater purpose by turning his documentary making skills into the We Are Men initiative, which puts real-life stories of men into a digital format that can be easily accessed by others. “I wanted to bridge the gap between men seeking help and men getting help,” said Carl, whose digital story telling with men in western Sydney also highlights useful support services to “help a mate”.

Tynan Narywonczyk has been changing many lives in his now full-time role with Roses in the Ocean. Seriously injuring himself after falling three storeys onto concrete at the age of 19, Tynan made a non-fatal attempt on his life. His future prospects, according to the medical profession, looked bleak and Tynan felt that “being alive was an injustice.” In his darkest hour, Tyan came to the realization that he didn’t want to die, he just wanted to stop the pain of feeling like he was a burden to everyone. “I was given the gift of not dying and then I was given the gift of perspective. How can I find peace with that pain?”

Tyan became involved in ironman competition and, 13 years later, started to talk about his trauma. “I became hungry to get into the sector and go after it as much as I can,” he said. “I’m living my purpose.” In his role as a lived experience speaker Tynan has a powerful message, borne of being cut down in his prime. In the cycle of life, things happen, and men need to know that their emotional responses make complete sense.

“It frees people up,” he said.

Rob O’Leary told the gathering that Batyr’s Being Herd workshops have published over 300,000 stories and were available on the organisation’s digital story-telling platform. Through Batyr’s app, people can create, view and share stories about navigating tough times. As well as being a useful resource for the community, data captured in the app highlights the barriers to people accessing support and may inform future decisions around policy and training professionals.

Men's Health Connected

Men's Health Connected is hosted by the Australian Men's Health Forum. All Men’s Health Connected 2022 sessions will become available on AMHF’s You Tube channel this week.

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