Men’s Sheds: Nothing manlier than mental health equality
The modern Men’s Shed is an updated version of the backyard shed that has long been a part of Australian culture.
“I’ve sometimes described Men’s Sheds, as a library of knowledge. Where they share their own experiences, be that of life experiences or work experiences,” said David Helmer, the CEO of the Australian Men’s Shed Association (ASMA).
The first Men’s Shed opened in Lane Cove in 1996, and were founded by men who were ‘shedless’. Since then, there are over 1000 active sheds around Australia and the concept is growing internationally. The sheds encourage members to form friendships, work around social activities and provide members with health information.
David said that the sheds do more than give men a space to share their knowledge. “What the sheds do is provide men with a sense of belonging,” he said. “It gives them a space to go to everyday and provides some purpose to their lives.”
“Men’s social life revolves closely around their working life and when men are out of work, they are at a greater risk of social isolation and developing depression. The primary objectives of the sheds is to fill the void of that social isolation and bring connectivity back into their social worlds. That’s really the big attraction to the sheds.”
One of the reasons Men’s Shed is needed are due to cultural relics that have persisted from a time when men were expected to not openly express their emotion, a fact made evident from the average Men’s Sheds participant being 62 years old. Even males today generally remain stoic, are expected to be providers and protectors, and are hesitant to open up out of fear of showing weakness.
“There is little encourage for men to take an interest in their own health and well being and are reluctant to talk about their emotions and that means they don’t usually ask for help,” said David.
“Women are far better at communicating their emotions than men. For years, women have had similar type groups like CWA or New at Skill. Men’s Sheds is a male domain, but not male specific by any means. But, the needs are far greater for men.”
But Men’s Shed is open for all ages. Boys as young as 14 are participating in the shed programs. David said the youth will do a far better a job of resolving the problem, and in 50 years time Men’s Sheds will no longer be needed, though will always be around.
“A lot of the shed’s offer mentoring programs, usually with youth service providers. Sometimes these programs are run independently, it all comes down to the sheds themselves and what they want to offer,” said the CEO.
“In this younger generation, [they have] better developed communication skills and are better able to interact and I think that has been one of the great things of the new areas of social media.”
Men’s Sheds provides a place to break away from the cultural relics that have fostered mental health issues in a disproportionate number of men. Source: Men’s Shed Association
Each shed is a self-incorporated body, it’s own legal entities, a non-for profit organization that has become sustainable and is run with a club like structure. “It’s really up to the sheds themselves to decide what they want to do with the sheds, and what type of activities they want to do,” said David.
Helmers said that the modern work place propagates an environment that encourages mental illness in men, but socially isolated them. “All companies try to create a very strong corporate culture to enhance productivity,” he said.
“But, one of the big risks of that is when men are out of the corporate culture, they are at risk of [being socially isolated], with it being one of the trigger points of depression.”
The ASMA CEO tied it in with the cultural expectations of the male providers, he said ““when men are in a position where they are unable to do that, when they are unemployed, it increases the likely chances for a male to get a sense of social isolation, resulting in depression and mental illness.”
Main Image Credit: mensshed.org
This article is part of the June Serial Issue: Mental Well Being
The article above was written by Ak Akkawi and was originally published on Vibewire. The IMSA has been given permission to publish it. Click this link for the original article.