SEAN HEFFERON is a South Fremantle resident on a mission; he wants to get blokes talking about their mental health, but in the nicest possible way – sharing a snag around a barbie at the beach. The next Mr Perfect BBQ (Mental Health’s Mate) is on January 31. Read on for details.
TWICE as many men will experience mental illness at some stage during their lifetime compared to women.
On average, every day in Australia eight people commit suicide – six men, and two women. Men are also twice as likely as women to develop a substance use disorder.
Yet for all this – seven in ten men do not seek help for mental illness.
We also know that social connections can help bolster mental health – and if you are connected you are more likely to reach out for support.
But seven in ten men don’t reach out – and when a crisis occurs, often the social supports aren’t there because the groundwork has not been laid.
I think, and I know I am not alone here, that men’s mental health issues have flown under the radar for a long time. Maybe that’s due to the male perceived “need” to be seen to be independent or to compartmentalise issues?
Maybe it’s down to role models, upbringing and social norms?
As a man I’ve been guilty of dismissing mental health issues (mine and others) – not a badge of pride at all. At best I’ve not been fully present when a mate’s been opening up about mental health concerns. At worst, – well, this Aussies male does like a beer (but I’ve learnt over the years getting smashed doesn’t solve anything – and the headaches are a killer).
As men we downplay or dismiss mental health concerns – yet this culture of dismissal just kicks the can down the road.
Very much time for blokes to open up. This is where a humble BBQ may help.
I hosted the first Fremantle Mr Perfect BBQ late last year for men (and yes the moniker “Mr Perfect” is meant to suggest that behind this “Mr” things are far from perfect).
Mr Perfect is a “pre-crisis” grassroots charity that runs park BBQs for men across the country to reduce isolation and create community and connection.
As a South Freo local I thought the BBQ’s would be ideal for the area as a lot of men are doing it tough especially with the effects of Covid on job loss, family stress and so on. A regular informal BBQ where men can meet and just chat in a safe environment can only benefit our local community.
At a Mr Perfect BBQ there is no pressure to talk about mental health. Rather, the goal is to foster a community where men can interact with other like-minded men around a socially acceptable and normalising task like a BBQ.
Fire up the barbie and blokes tend to congregate around it – and chat! The first BBQ was successful as the picture shows (and I have to add that we have great BBQ facilities at South Beach). A whole bunch of blokes from different walks of life attended. All with different stories to tell.
One recounted how he recently lost a friend to suicide and the ongoing impact that loss had on him and his friend’s family.
I was privileged to listen to him and just be present.
I think it would be fair to say that all who attended had a good feed and got a healthy dose of connection and community.
The next Mr Perfect BBQ (Mental Health’s Mate) is on January 31 from 10:30am-12:30pm down at the South Beach BBQ area in South Fremantle.
So if you’re a bloke and want to catch up for a chat please do drop by. We supply the food and the non-alcoholic drinks. Just look out for the Mr Perfect banner!
For more information head to mrperfect.org.au or call me on 0407 479 695.