Men’s Health Week 2021 highlights the power of a conversation | South Coast Register

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news, latest-news, Men’s Health Week, suicide, Man Walk Nowra, The Man Walk

This article mentions suicide. If this topic is triggering for you, please call Lifeline 13 11 14. Sometimes problems don’t feel so bad when you’re out in the fresh air, talking them out with mates, rather than wrestling with your thoughts alone. And the simple power of a conversation was brought home to Nowra resident Gareth Southam when he joined The Man Walk. Gareth lost one of his closest friends to suicide 13 years ago, and while he knew him all through school, he said it was totally unexpected. He hopes others struggling with their mental health feel like they didn’t have to go through a silent battle on their own. “It’s one of those things I wouldn’t want anybody else to go through,” he said. “Obviously there were other factors that led up to that stage, but I do think in the back of my mind something as simple as a conversation could potentially stop somebody from going down that path.” Nine Australians take their own lives every day, which is more than double the national road toll – and 75 per cent of those are men, according to Lifeline. And suicide is the leading cause of death for Australians between the ages of 15 and 44. While there are medical and professional options available for men, many have turned to a gentler approach to help with their mental health. One of those approaches is The Man Walk which sees local men gather twice weekly to walk and talk about anything on their mind. Twenty-six-year-old real estate agent Mitchell Hodgson brought The Man Walk to town 18 months ago after he noticed someone going through a hard time. “I was working with a guy whose son was going through a really hard time. It wasn’t good at all for him,” he said. “Because I’m local to Nowra, there were a lot of guys I heard about that had committed suicide or gone through bad times. “And then I looked at the services available and there’s very little here on the South Coast for men’s mental health specifically. “Then an ad popped up for the Man Walk in Kiama and I thought I should bring that here as a stepping stone to get guys chatting to each other about what they were going through and to create connections with each other.” He said it offers a much gentler space for men to get things off their chest rather than clinical settings. “At the doctors you’re always going to be sitting across from your doctor, they’re in their office chair and you’re sitting right across from them,” said Mitchell. “Whereas when you’re walking side by side, you don’t have to look that person in the eye. It’s not as intense and you get to have a bit of banter which helps people to open up.” Gareth joined The Man Walk in Nowra after seeing an ad for it. The 37-year-old expressed the importance of having a conversation, and said that if an initiative like it existed when his friend were alive, it could have been the thing that kept him here. “I know exactly how dark it can get and the statistics around suicide are terrible and they just shouldn’t be like that,” he said. The group has attracted local men aged 17 to 80, which Mitchell and Gareth both agree helps one another pass on advice. “I think it’s good that we’ve got different age groups there,” said Gareth. “The problems that I have in my life at 37 are different to the guys who are 50 to 55, but I find they have been through similar things previously. “It’s all about giving advice to each other at different stages of our lives.” While the disproportionate statistics in men committing suicide are shocking, Mitchell and Gareth said they think having open conversations are becoming more normalised. “Times have changed,” said Mitchell. “You look back to 30 years ago, mental health wasn’t even a thing. Everyone just said to go sleep it off, but people realise now it’s something that affects nearly everyone in one way or another.” You can find The Man Walk Nowra on Facebook here: https://www.facebook.com/groups/799411387223143 Please contact Lifeline if you are struggling on 13 11 14. We depend on subscription revenue to support our journalism. If you are able, please subscribe here. If you are already a subscriber, thank you for your support.

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