The successful Western Bulldogs Community Foundation’s Sons of the West program has moved online for eight weeks, starting on 13 July at 4.30pm.
The program combines men’s love for Australian Rules Football, in particular the Victorian western suburbs Bulldogs team, with an educative and engaging health and wellbeing program.
Participants talk about the program being a life-saver. Russell Campbell from Braybrook credits the program with giving him hope and finding new ways to cope after a marriage breakdown led to depression. Sons of the West kicked him out of the blues and now he wants others to benefit from the program.
“There are guys there that are in the same boat. I was someone who I didn’t think needed help, and I needed help," he shares on the Western Bulldogs AFL website.
Wendouree participant Dan Madigan said Sons of the West made him accountable for his health and is returning as a peer leader for the online program. He told the Ballarat Courier that the program empowered men with discussions on mental health and addiction, to gender equity and nutrition, and combined these with a customised physical regime for each participant.
Sons of the West advocate Russell Campbell
"Not many men really talk (about health) but they would bring in different speakers every week, then you would exercise," Mr Madigan said.
"I've learnt sitting at a desk every day is not good for you - and I'm still learning ways to change this. Getting out and among people and talking is important. I have the confidence now to see a psychologist and it can just take your mindset to a better place and make you feel better."
Sons of the West is directed at men in Bulldogs land: Maribyrnong, Brimbank, Hobsons Bay, Melton, Wyndham, Ballarat and Whittlesea.
An estimated 640 men joined the program last year and the majority said their understanding of health issues had improved together with learning what support health services were available to them.
One of them, retired fire fighter John Anderson, credits Sons of the West with helping him face and share his recent experiences with prostate cancer. "For me, I've got so much out of this program. It was about time I gave back to something I am proud to be part of. I wanted to share my experience with other men," John said.
Included in the January program were sessions on prostate cancer, led by Ted Whitten junior, whose legendary father died of prostate cancer aged 62 in 1995. Sons of the West also benefited from specialist Gay Corbett, a prostate care nurse with Ballarat Health Services and a recent Australian Men’s Health Forum 2020 ‘Women Working in Men’s Health’ Award finalist.
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