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To mark Men’s Health Week on the NSW Central Coast, Men Care Too hosted a forum for local health, social and community workers and volunteers to connect with each other, learn about local initiatives and discuss strategies to better support the priority populations identified in the National Men’s Health Strategy 2020-2030.

We started the forum by talking about some men’s health facts from the Australian Men’s Health Forum; 1 in 3 men die of cancer, 93% of workplace deaths are male, 3 in 4 road deaths are men and what is a highly motivating force behind many people working with men - 3 out of every 4 suicides are men.

There is no one solution to the complexity of issues behind male suicide rates, the numbers are similar around the world and affects people from all walks of life including, young, working age and elderly men. What we can do is talk about it, encourage and support grassroots initiatives and programs that give men a space to connect and provide a safe outlet to acknowledge and work on their challenges.

Men Care Too challenges each and every service provider or community organisation in Australia to ensure some aspects of your work are male friendly to give those men at risk of suicide a chance at life.

The forum kicked off with Central Coast Primary Care Family Wellbeing Program Co-Ordinator Nigel who spoke about a program designed by Aboriginal Elders which has been delivered to more than 350 local indigenous youth. Over the past 6 years the program has provided an opportunity to discuss and educate on topics such as physical, mental, emotional and spiritual needs. One of the young men from the program spoke about the strong bonds and mateship that comes out of belonging to the group – a sense of connection with others that is so important to wellbeing.

Next up was Brennan from All In Gaming, a new local initiative aimed at creating those connections between youth through the shared experience and interest in video games. Running after school at a local community center the initiative aims to reduce the feelings of isolation and loneliness that many youth experience by creating a space for real life interactions.

Fathers were next on the agenda with Vicki from Uniting talking about another local initiative ‘Becoming a Father, Being a Dad’. Growing from feedback about lack of recognition and services for new Dads, a ‘Dad’s Night Out’ midweek event was held with NRL Legend Nathan Hindmarsh as guest speaker along with other local men talking about the challenges and highlights of being a dad. More than 75 local men attended the first event along with a number of local services. A second ‘Dad’s Night Out’ has since been held with a third scheduled for August.

Employment is often seen as a major contributor to men’s sense of belonging and worth in society and for men who live with an illness or disability the barriers and challenges to employment can have a huge impact on their wellbeing. Mark from Disability Employment Service provider APM, spoke about the process of not just working with clients to gain employment, but to empower individuals through respect and encouragement.

Following a morning tea break, attendees began the ‘Tough Work’ of coming up with strategies to connect with, and support men in specific demographics. No budget restrictions, no policy or procedures to follow, meant that there were plenty of creative ideas floating around at each table. After some time for collaboration with other groups, each of the tables shared their ideas and initiatives with some great potential coming out of such a short time frame.

We ended the forum by focusing back on the men in our community who are socially isolated, experiencing any sort of loss, struggling financially or living with physical or mental health challenges. Men may do things a little differently to women, but at the end of the day we are all human and have an innate need for connection, worth and purpose. We are all capable of doing something that can make a difference in the lives of others – Start a conversation by asking your boss, colleague, brother or mate the question “What does a male friendly initiative look like to you?

Men Care Too would like to extend a special thanks to the Hunter New England, Central Coast Primary Health Network for sponsoring the ‘Tough Work’ Forum. We would also like to thank the Mingara Club for their support with a Club Grant which along with support from Lakes Printers helped to keep our costs down.

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