- All Flourish: Flourish Men, Health + Wellbeing, Home + Garden, Inspiration + Motivation, Parenting, Babies, Children + Family, Relationships
By Melanie Hearse
It’s agreed, women talk – they talk about their day, about their minor irritations and their health.
While this may not be the way forth for the average man, it’s interesting to note that women tend to get help for their health complaints (including mental) far sooner with greater success, and they make better use of friends and family to support them through times of trouble.
With this in mind, health boffins turned their creative efforts to determining what kinds of environments might lead to better health outcomes for men.
Enter the rise of men’s sheds throughout Australia – there’s 22 and counting in Western Australia alone.
“Problems with men's health, isolation, loneliness and depression are looming as major health issues for men. Men's sheds can play a significant and practical role in addressing these and other men's issues by connecting men with their communities and mainstream society and at the same time act as a catalyst in stimulating their community's economic activities” said Dan Brush, Chairman of Men's Shed, a not for profit organisation.
Why the Men’s Shed?
Andrew Stark, National Market, Fundraising and Communications Manager at the Australian Men’s Shed Association of Australia, explains that because men don’t talk about their problems and get them out in the same way women do, men are less healthy as a population than women.
“They drink more, take more risks and they suffer more from isolation, loneliness and depression. Relationship breakdown, retrenchment or early retirement from a job, loss of children following divorce, physical or mental illness are just some of the problems that men find it hard to deal with on their own” Andrew explains.
Because good health is reliant on many factors – including connectedness to other people and the wider community and the sense of wellbeing that comes with being productive and feeling valuable, the men’s shed concept was developed as way of providing these things to men that may have struggled or been reluctant to find it elsewhere. Mens sheds are practical places – they give men something active and useful to do, and the spin off is that they are in the company of other blokes. There’s no pressure to be busy in a men's shed either; many men will just drop in for a cuppa or a chat with the friends they have made even when they are between projects.
There is no typical member of a men’s shed – you’ll find blokes of all walks of life, just sharing the common bond of looking for something useful to do with their time.
So what is a Men’s Shed?
Andrew Stark explains that the modern men’s shed is an updated version of the shed in the backyard that has long been a part of Australian culture. “If you looked inside one you might see a number of men restoring furniture, perhaps restoring bicycles for a local school, maybe making Mynah bird traps or fixing lawn mowers or making a kids cubby house for Camp Quality to raffle. You might also see a few young men working with the older men learning new skills and maybe also learning something about life from the men they work with. You will see tea-bags, coffee cups and a comfortable area where men can sit and talk. You will probably also see an area where men can learn to cook for themselves or they can learn how to contact their families by computer”.
The Rules of Engagement
Joining a shed is a simple affair. Start by finding a shed in your area - there are a number of sites around to help you find one close to you – check out www.mensshed.org to find searchable lists by postcode. From here you can give the shed coordinator a call or an email from the contact information listed to find out what hours the shed operates and drop by for a visit. There is generally a small fee if you join (around $5 to $25 per year) and activities will vary from shed to shed, so if your local isn’t offering activities you are keen on, do look around at other nearby sheds – the most common activities are woodworking and metal work. If you have a specific area of interest, you can contact your state coordinator at www.mensshed.org to find out what sheds are offering that activity.
If there isn’t one in your local area and you are interested in setting one up, you can make contact with either of these organisations and find out more about government support and sourcing funding – as a mental and physical health initiative supported by the Australian Government, and with men’s mental health being a priority area of interest for the Government, you will find the process is well supported and relatively simple.
The Virtual Shed
There is also an online version of the shed if you aren’t quite ready to venture out, or if there are no sheds nearby. The inspiration for The Shed Online comes from the 400 Men's Sheds Australia-wide, and offers men who don't have a local Men's Shed the opportunity to be part of a community - to socialise, make new friends and work on a project together via the internet.
The Shed Online has forums for general chat, health and DIY related questions, as well as forums about finding local clubs or setting them up. Visit www.theshedonline.org.au, register to become a member and start joining the discussion forums.
The Shed Online is a joint project of beyondblue and the Australian Men's Shed Association.
Real Men love the Shed
Don’t take our word for it, here are some comments thoughtfully provided from real Men’s Shed members in WA:
“We love our Menshed because a spade's a spade, no politics no religion and plenty of bullshit, it's all about humor and health” – group response, Heart & Soul Menshed Forrestdale.
“We undertake a diverse range of personal and community based projects encompassing all the manual arts. However, for most blokes at the Joondalup shed, what they do is of secondary importance to the atmosphere of friendship, mutual support and the feeling of being useful gained by helping less fortunate members of the community. Nothing beats knowing you have an entire network of true friends on whom you can rely. You have to experience it to truly understand. It gets in your blood and we call it “SHED POWER!” - Alan Greenhalgh, Joondalup Men's Shed Incorporated.
“We like the camaraderie that is shared with our own peer group, and all the men are able to relax in a stress free place. Sheds are not just about "making things", but helping men to connect with the communities that they may have lived in for many years, but because they’ve worked outside of their living areas, have not built up many community connections” - Ted Lawrence, Bassendean Men’s Shed.
“Our Men's Shed has a big woodworking basis and we are in the process of setting up the metalworking section. The friendship that you find in Men's Sheds is great and as well as being able to pass on your expertise learned in many years of work you can learn so much from your mates in the shed.” – Keith Allen, Rockingham Men’s Shed.
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