International Men’s Day is this Friday, November 19. It's celebrated in many countries across the world as an opportunity to talk about masculinity and men’s social issues.

Masculinity is complex, and there are few who really understand how to handle some of the problems men can face. As a result, the statistics can be dire.

In Australia alone, 3 out of 4 suicides are men; 2 out of 3 violent deaths are men; and boys under-perform girls at every stage of education.

At Feros Care, we’re lucky to have some incredible male team members in our organisation; including men who are running programs leading the way in social change and acknowledgement of some of the biggest issues, such as loneliness, depression and violence.

Simon Mannion is a Community Engagement and Wellbeing Coach in our Health and Aged Care Division. He runs our Beat the COVID Blues program in Newcastle, and has many years of experience working with men in different settings.

He gives his top tips for starting conversations about men’s health, from youth through to the elderly, and how he inspires men of all ages to be the best men they can be.

Changing the idea of ‘what it is to be a man’

Simon grew up in country towns, surrounded by positive role models, with his caring nature nurtured by both his mum and dad - but he was one of the lucky ones.

“I know a lot of men who still receive that message of - real men don’t cry, men are tough, you need to suck it up, don’t show emotion,” Simon says. “That is slowly changing. It’s now more acceptable for men to acknowledge their feelings but there’s still a stigma.”

The key? Letting the men in your life know that it’s okay to struggle, it’s okay to feel sad or depressed, and that it’s okay to reach out when you do.

“Respect and communication are such simple skills to begin with, but they can get so complex without male role models,” Simon explains. “Even just learning positive body language, or having a positive conversation instead of lashing out.”

“Being a male, it’s up to us to end the kind of violence we can see in a lot of circumstances, and I feel a big responsibility. I hold other men accountable for that too.”

Learning the key of listening - and communicating well

Simon Mannion, Wellbeing Manager

The Beat the COVID Blues program is all about listening - a skill that Simon has down pat. The program is all about working with seniors to coach and support them, measuring goals and health outcomes along the way.

And while the program is for both men and women, Simon says that people in general tend to be surprised by a male Wellbeing Coach.

“There’s still sometimes that stereotypical view of a male, that they’re not so good at listening,” Simon explains. “I’m very conscious of that, and I do my best with active listening - being genuinely interested in someone and being with them. They are my entire focus for the time I have with them.”

Simon begins each visit by acknowledging that he has arrived at someone’s home, and thanking them for letting him in. He engages in thoughtful, simple practices such as wiping his feet on the mat, or asking if they want him to take his shoes off - “that makes it feel like I’m respecting their wishes, or needs, and their home.”

In his sessions, Simon focuses on being compassionate, understanding and respectful. “I say things to people like, ‘look at the life you’ve had! I’m going to learn so much from you!”

And just by validating their life experience, a lot of people learn that there’s someone who wants to hear about them. Their life matters. And they want to grow bold, in the Feros Care way.

Education, education, education

Simon’s background is in youth work and as a men’s rehab coach, working with men who are looking to learn new skills around making decisions. He knows that education is key to changing lives for men in the most positive way - and this is what International Men’s Day is all about.

“A lot of my work has been simply presenting what a decent male adult can look like to these men,” Simon explains. “There are other ways to deal with frustrations. It’s fine to be angry, it’s fine to be upset, but what can we do about it?”

Educating men about mindfulness and emotion management are key - especially when an individual grows up surrounded by unhealthy messages.

“Some men don’t realise that their coping mechanisms are unhealthy until that’s pointed out. I say - oh you hit something, or you hit someone, how did that work out for you?”

Simon gives the example of how discussions can be really positive when you see the barriers fall down. “Sometimes I would walk in to speak to a group of men, and I’d say - ‘let’s get real, it’s just us blokes here.’ And I’d say that deliberately because at other times - when it’s just the blokes - that toxic culture would come out.” “But when you take it into a different direction and lead it into a different discussion, it’s really interesting to see how people let their guard down and speak openly and honestly about their mental health.”

You can find out more about the Beat the COVID Blues program by clicking here.

Interested in knowing more about the Feros Care approach to health and wellbeing? Find out more about it here.

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