20th May, 2022 — Mental health

Men’s Health Week: Stories of support

Playing sport and being part of a team promotes positive social behaviour, like developing friendships, trust, and empathy. It protects against the stress and anxiety that often lead to drug and alcohol use.

That’s why being involved in sport is healthy not just for the body but also for the brain.

To celebrate Men’s Health Week, we’re sharing some stories that can help inspire your club to build a better environment for boys and men.

Youth team taking mental health by the horns

In the Victorian Mallee shire of Buloke, the giant bull mascot on the main street of Birchip reminds people what local folk are made of. But a reputation for toughness is no help when mental health starts to decline. In fact, that reputation can even get in the way.

The Buloke Youth-Led Local Drug Action Team supported a Birchip community forum that looked at busting a few myths about mental health. In particular, how sport once focused only on physical fitness but now the focus is turning just as much to mental fitness.

Guest speaker Tom Boyd, premiership-winning former AFL Western Bulldogs player, told the packed gathering and The Buloke Times how he struggled with mental health throughout his playing career.

While Birchip has also been struggling in recent tough times, the LDAT has put mental health front and centre. 

Its creative list of activities includes hosting a community meal, parenting programs, a safe partying presentation and a colour fun run where joggers of all ages were pelted with powdery puffs of paint.

Checking in with a comfortable face

It can take a fair bit of courage to step out and pedal down the road or lift weights at the gym.

When it comes to improving mental health, it can also take a bit of extra courage to step out of your comfort zone and reach out for support.

Melbourne local Clint Proctor, who works in the alcohol and other drug sector, saw a need to give community sports club members a gentle nudge when it comes to reaching out for help, checking on friends and encouraging teammates.

The new Check-me app is designed as a safe space during challenging moments.

The app sends prompts asking the user how they are doing. The user clicks on a simple emoji-style icon that indicates if they are thriving, optimistic, content, average, unhappy or miserable. It then asks if these feelings are around work, sport, relationships or other things.

The app sends a message to a designated contact at the club, like a coach, club manager or even a peer. They organise a meeting, phone call or text to catch up in a way that is comfortable for everyone.

After a successful trial at Box Hill Hawks footy club in Melbourne and seven other community sports clubs, the app became publicly available in August 2021.

Sons rising up the wellbeing ladder

The Western Bulldogs AFL club knows all about overcoming that bottom-of-the-ladder feeling and the chase for the Premiership.

Now it is sharing this dogged determination with partner Western Bulldogs Community Foundation’s successful Sons of the West men’s health program.

The foundation is supported by local health agencies including the Alcohol and Drug Foundation to offer at-risk men from the western suburbs and regional areas a 10-week program to make new friends and boost their wellbeing.

The group meets weekly for education sessions about life skills.  Presentations from experts include subjects like nutrition, reducing alcohol harm, mental health, gender equity and masculinity. 

Then they break out into a sports and light fitness session, including exercises and games.

Take a look at how it works and feel free to borrow some of their great ideas.

“After the first few weeks on the program, I noticed a change in my weight and the family also commented on the change in my general wellbeing. I now have regular medical checks, I’m more outgoing and reduced my weight significantly. Sons of the West changed my life for the good.” – Mike Dunne, Sons of the West participant.

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