Sheds safe places to talk

By Benalla Ensign

Men’s Health Week aims to shine a light on the fact that, in general, the mental health of men in Australia is poorer than that of women.

There could be a number of reasons why that is.

Traditionally there has been a lack of support for the mental wellbeing of men and, of course, men are less likely to admit they are struggling and are also less likely to talk to other men about issues they might be facing.

Membership of a Men’s Shed is one way men are starting to support each other and the organisation’s impact is helping Aussie men throughout the year, not just for one week in June.

After being diagnosed with Parkinson’s Disease Benalla’s Max Scholz was virtually homebound and was struggling to find a purpose.

‘‘One day I was playing croquet with a friend and he suggested I went down to the Men’s shed to see what it was all about,’’ Max said.

‘‘I didn’t know what they did, I thought they just sat there and drank coffee and smoked cigarettes.

‘‘But what I found was brilliant.

‘‘I got to see all the different projects they were doing, they do lots of community projects.

‘‘Lots of carpentry and welding, repairing sheds and tables and revarnishing furniture.

‘‘They build dog kennels and bird cages, you name it they do it.

‘‘As soon as I saw what they did I decided it was ideal for me.

‘‘Having Parkinson’s I needed some exercise and an excuse to get out of the house.

‘‘It worked out really well. I’ve got a lot of my body movements back.

‘‘I had limited movement in my arms before and now I’m really good.

‘‘Plus you can talk to the blokes down there about your problems, and they’re a really good bunch of blokes.’’

Benalla Men’s Shed president Lou Sigmund said being part of the organisation had helped him through difficult times.

‘‘I know for a fact from my standpoint, my own health, my own mental health, if I didn’t have the Men’s Shed I think I would be in a totally different place,’’ Mr Sigmund said.

‘‘I went through the Black Saturday fires and without the Men’s Shed I doubt I’d be sitting here today.

‘‘As a group officer and fire captain it affected me rather badly to the point I had to have support, and the Men’s Shed then drew me back into real life with jokes and laughter and camaraderie.

‘‘It’s a bit like the army, men are not good at talking about what we’ve been through, but the Men’s Shed is a place we can.’’