The ripple effect of men sharing a meal
The grassroots men’s mental health organisation The Men’s Table has released a new report on the impact its men’s groups are having on the wider community.
This report draws on the voices of women who are living with men who sit at Tables, and the ripple effect on friends, family and communities.
In a 2022 Annual Table Survey, 81% of men said that their relationships with people around them improved as a result of attending Tables, and increased to 90% for those sitting at a table for more than a year.
The ‘Women’s Say Survey’ found that women partners of The Men’s Table attendees were also getting benefits.
Half of the women (49%) had seen positive changes in the man in their life; they were better able to express, share and identify emotions, and were both seeking and providing emotional support for other men.
60% of women had seen an improvement in a man’s mental health and observed that the men were more socially connected and engaged in other interests and activities.
The Men’s Table was founded by David Pointon and Ben Hughes in 2019. Tables are formed upon a set of guidelines, and men meet once a month over a simple meal in a private room to share what is going on in their lives, and to talk about how they are feeling.
82% who join a Table are seeking a support network and wanting to be part of a community, 75% are looking for ‘real’ conversations and 66% are seeking connection and friendship.
One in two women said their relationship with the man had improved as a result of him sitting at a table. “Relationship benefits increase over time with 83% of women noting improved and enriched intimate relationships with a man who had been at a Table for over a year.”
“I really feel that if we didn’t make a change our marriage would not have survived. The Men’s Table was an important step in maintaining our relationship and our marriage,” said one partner.
The Men’s Table says it facilitates healthy masculinities through five key principles:
- Going beyond the banter, men practice open-hearted sharing and compassionate listening.
- Commitment to community invokes reciprocity, with men consistently showing up to serve themselves and others.
- Safe and confidential Tables cultivate the value of creating a safe, trusted space to listen and share with compassion.
- Membership matters involve men in enhanced social connectedness and community participation being present to the lived experiences of other Table members.
- With ‘everyone leading’ creates an egalitarian group, and transcends traditional forms of masculine hierarchy.
The Women’s Say survey began in November 2022, and collected 92 responses, with 23 women taking part in follow-up interviews between December 2022 and February 2023.
A Women’s Webinar Focus Group in December 2022 drew further insights on the benefits of The Men’s Table.
Most who took part were partners. While this Survey did not represent male partners, future evaluation will seek feedback from people with diverse sexual orientations.
“He always comes back from his Table talking about being able to sit down and talk with these men and form great relationships and change the definition of what positive masculinity means, which has inspired me,” said one woman.
“He’s very closed about what is said at his Table, which is excellent because that’s the premise: what goes on at the Table stays at the Table, except what it opens in yourself.”
A key benefit of The Men’s Table experience is building social connection, and 72% of the women affirmed a change in their partner’s social network.
As a result, 60% of women said that men had improved mental health and wellbeing.
“My partner has had lifelong issues with anxiety and depression,” said one woman.
“Being part of a Table appears to help him control both and have a more optimistic outlook on life.”
49% of all women said that they had experienced positive changes and improved relationships as a result of a man in their life being at a Table. This increased to 83% of women when a man had attended for more than one year.
30% of all women reported that a man in their life was more emotionally available (increasing to 43% when a man had attended for more than one year), and 23% said that there was better communication in their relationship.
“I don’t like awake at night worrying or researching the best way to help a sad man,” said one woman.
24% of women reported healthier familial relationships, and they also found the men to be more engaged and involved in their communities as a result of their participation in The Men’s Table.
The Men’s Table Founders say they are supporting men who want to move beyond restrictive masculine stereotypes to come together with other men to talk about how they feel.
“There is growing opportunity to bring together communities of men to shift the narrative. Australian society is ready for this change.”