The message that underpins everything we do at the Regional Men’s Health Initiative is “before it all gets too much ‘Talk to a Mate’. Human beings are fundamentally social in nature, staying connected and feeling valued for who we are is of primary importance to us. Talking to other people about issues in our lives or telling our stories helps us to normalise our experiences and realise we are not alone in having them. As blokes we have a tendency to retreat into ourselves when things are turning pear shaped, ‘cave time’. Much to the frustrations of most women this is a normal part of the way men tend to start processing their problems.
Metaphorically stepping into the cave can be helpful to get a handle on things but it is important that we are able to acknowledge and recognise when it is time to step back out and seek the support we need. Having a plan already in place that identifies who our mates are that we can turn to is really important. Without a network of true mates we become susceptible to feelings of isolation and loneliness.
As blokes we can recognise three main categories from where we find and establish real mate ship. These exist usually in the forms of a partner (intimate relationship), a peer (someone around the same age that perhaps has a similar experience of lifestyle and activities to us) and a mentor (an older person who’s lived experience we place value upon). A real mate is more than just an associate, it’s someone that knowingly respects and values who we are and is willing to make the time to genuinely listen to us. Think about who you would classify as a mate; and about the blokes you know who perhaps have few or none of these categories in their lives?
Often it is said that blokes in general don’t really like to talk about stuff but the reality is quite different. Given the right environment, in which they feel comfortable most men will willingly share their story and talk about issues that matter to them. Being a good mate is about supporting a person in that space and genuinely listening to what they have to say. We don’t have to be an expert or necessarily have any of the answers to people’s problems, just the ability to listen.
Being a good mate is also about actively looking out for the people we care about and taking action when we recognise that something is not quite right. A simple question like the one proposed by the recent R U OK? Campaign can be a significant step in connecting with someone and giving them the opportunity to chat about what’s on their mind. If you have a gut feel that someone you know is not travelling well ask them how they are going and don’t be afraid to ask more than once!
Remember, Talk to a mate!! It will help.