Written by Laura Stewart
Human connection and mental health
The positive impact of human connection on men’s mental health has been a major focus point during this year’s International Men’s Health Week. As mentioned in a previous blog post, the number of support groups available to men has dramatically increased over the past decade from approximately 10 to 300. Experts such as Dr Neil Hall from Western Sydney University’s Centre for Male Health, have advocated for the unique role of men’s support groups (Australian Men’s Health Forum, 2021). Interestingly, support groups centred around activity are especially effective for men. Men thrive from the sense of comradery, and it has been suggested that “three good mates” may add seven years to a man’s life (Daily Liberal, 2021).
Men’s Support Groups
Several support groups that have emerged over the past decade have been particularly successful. The Men’s Table, founded in 2011, focuses on emotional and social well-being by encouraging men to gather once a month to share a meal and build trust to discuss their ups and downs (The Men’s Table, 2021). In 2018, Dr Emma George, Senior Lecturer at Western Sydney University, partnered with NRL team Canterbury-Bankstown Bulldogs and South Western Sydney Primary Health Network to deliver The Active Breed, a 12-week program that focuses on mental and physical health (Active Breed, 2021; Bendigo Advertiser, 2021). The program focuses on small sustainable changes and practical skills to ensure positive habits can be maintained beyond the 12-week program. Upon completion, men are invited back to mentor new members. Dr George attributed the program’s success to the “strong sense of camaraderie and belonging it offers” (Active Men’s Health Forum, 2021). Similarly, The Man Walk, which provides men the opportunity to “walk, talk and support” each other, received the 2020 NSW Men’s Health Award and now operates nationally (Ellis, 2020). Online App PlaySport serves a similar purpose by connecting men with sport and well-being programs across Australia (Bendigo Advertiser, 2021).
While Dr Hall has acknowledged that men have become more comfortable with seeking help, many remain unaware of the extend of resources and groups available to them (The West Australian, 2021). Of course, it is important for men to find a group that suits their individual needs and preferences. As International Men’s Health Week comes to an end, let’s continue to recognise, discuss and promote the importance of support groups all year round, not just for one week of the year.
Active Breed. (2021). Men’s Health. https://activebreed.thebulldogs.com.au/home.
Australian Men’s Health Forum. (2021). Neil Hall. https://www.amhf.org.au/840/dr_neil_hall.
Active Men’s Health Forum. (2021). Summit gives men a sporting chance. https://www.amhf.org.au/summit_gives_men_a_sporting_chance_of_good_health.
Bendigo Advertiser. (2021). Men’s Health Week. https://www.bendigoadvertiser.com.au/story/7291427/a-connection-for-health/.
Ellis, G. (2020). Kiama founded men’s walk, talk and support group wins NSW Men’s Health Award. Illawarra Mercury. https://www.illawarramercury.com.au/story/6794787/the-man-walk-that-started-in-kiama-has-now-gone-national/.
The Men’s Table. (2021). The Men’s Table: Men Serving Men. https://themenstable.org/#moc.
The West Australian. (2021). Call for Connection in Men’s Health Week. https://thewest.com.au/news/health/call-for-connection-in-mens-health-week-c-3096773.