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“Don’t be scared to ask for help and don’t put off getting a health check.”

Sound advice from Jamie and Gus who took part in our ‘Mates Chat’ during the Men’s Health Week ‘Mates Night’ event in Ulverstone which saw more than 60 guests of all ages come together to celebrate Men’s Health Week 2024.

The night started with everyone treated to a delicious feed of pizza and dessert from Herbs Pizza Ulverstone and McCarthy’s Bread Lounge, it was good to see everyone enjoying the opportunity to catch up with one another socially.

Next we heard from friend and supporter of MCT North West Mates, Central Coast Mayor Cheryl Fuller.  Along with highlighting the resources available to men via the Australian Men’s Health Forum, Cheryl spoke about how sometimes ‘you don’t know you need something until you need it’.  Time and time again we hear from men who start regularly coming along to our catch ups that they wish they had started coming sooner.   This speaks to the value of finding a place where you feel connected with others and a sense of belonging, wherever that may be.

Over the past few years we have hosted a number of R U OK? activities with a story on our MCT Mates Coffee Club featured in an R U OK? Seniors Campaign.  We promote the messaging of R U OK? and wanted to take the opportunity this year to share the story of it’s founder, the late Gavin Larkin.  Watching ‘Beyond OK’ provided an insight into how and why R U OK? began along with the impact of what is essentially a simple message encouraging regular, meaningful conversations with the people in your world. 

Another reason behind sharing the R U OK? story is the Conversation Convoy will be making it’s way to Tasmania in late September and spending a few weeks visiting communities all around the State.  Our Mates are excited to be working alongside the team at R U OK? on a number of events and activities for people in the North West so keep an eye out for more details.

We watched a short film about a men’s walk and talk group in the UK called ‘We Power On’.  The film tells a story of how Chris Waller started the group to help lift him out of a dark time and provide hope to other men who are experiencing struggles.  The story is similar to The Man Walk which is an Australian initiative with more than 80 locations around the country including our own walk here in Ulverstone which started back in mid-2020.  The stories told in the film resonated with many of our regular Man Walk crew and provided others with an opportunity to learn about the benefits of men sharing a walk and talk.

After a short break we welcomed Gus and Jamie on stage to take part in the ‘Mates Chat’ part of the evening.  Both men have been regulars at the various catch ups since early on and are well respected.  The conversation started around where they grew up and early family life before moving onto the complicated topics of trauma and loss.  Jamie spoke about the murder of his sister when he was in his late teens and how hard it was to see his parents trying to cope with such a tragic loss.  Grief is a difficult, deeply personal experience and Jamie mentioned that it was only after some time had passed and people started to ask him about his sister he felt a weight shift and that he could open up.

Gus spoke about a wonderful life exploring different parts of Australia with his late wife Faye on annual holidays to the mainland before she became unwell with Dementia.  Sharing how early on there were lots of minor challenges that were easily managed but over time it became more and more difficult with many sleepless nights and worry about what would happen next.  Gus talked about making the difficult decision that Faye needed to go into full time care and reflected that walking into the nursing home with her and leaving without her was a terribly hard thing to do.  Gus encouraged everyone to get in early and make use of support services that are available, even if you don’t need them now, knowing what’s out there and being prepared can make life a little easier.

Jamie shared an open and honest account of being diagnosed with cancer and handed a life expectancy of around 7 years.  He spoke about the difficulty of telling his family this news but also how much he is motivated by his children and grandchildren to prove the doctors wrong by sticking around longer than they suggest.  Managing his illness with regular check-ups and keeping on top of medications, Jamie encouraged men of all ages get themselves checked regularly and not to be embarrassed if they have something they are worried about, early detection makes a big difference.

A diabetic for many years, Gus shared a calculation that he has had about 14,000 jabs in his belly to help manage his insulin levels.  Thinking he may have been having prostate trouble, Gus booked a visit to his GP and got some tests done which is how he found out he was diabetic.  Since then he has been managing it by checking blood sugar daily and insulin injections along with eating a healthy diet.  Gus is sensible with managing his condition but also makes sure that he enjoys himself when he is out with friends.

A good source of information about men’s health issues, including tips on how to navigate the health system can be found on the Movember website.

Rounding out our conversation we chatted about the importance of recognising, and reaching out when a mate is doing it tough.  We all struggle with life at times and no matter how big or small, the simple act of being kind to each other, listening and offering support can help brighten up a dark day for someone else.

All in all, the third edition of ‘Mates Night’ was well supported by the community and the night was made all the more memorable with stories shared by our mates Gus and Jamie who sat in front of a group of people and spoke straight from the heart.  Thank you to both of our mates for showing up and talking about real life.

Thank you to the following business and organisations who donated prizes to our Mates Raffle and for supporting our Men’s Health Week event with an extra special mention to Shaun Kelly at Ulverstone Mowers and Chainsaws for going above and beyond.

McCarthy’s Bread Lounge

Railway IGA Ulverstone

Bunnings Devonport

Central Coast Council

Herbs Pizza Ulverstone

Penguin Lions Club

Iris Foundation

Thank you to everyone who purchased a ticket in our ‘Mates Raffle’ and congratulations to our prize winners –

1st Prize to Ticket No. 0017 J. Coad

2nd Prize to Ticket No. 0224 J. Faust

3rd Prize to Ticket No. 0239 Jenny

4th Prize to Ticket No. 0272 R. Lambert

5th Prize to Ticket No. 0077 C. Purton

6th Prize to Ticket No. 0279 J. Dunn

We have plenty of weekly and monthly catch ups for men in the North West, keep an eye on our Facebook page for regular updates and watch out for more details about the R U OK? Conversation Convoy visit in late September 2024.


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