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Getting Mentally Fit With Mates

My own personal journey, and now working with The Banksia Project, has led me to understand the importance of allowing myself to be vulnerable and encouraging those around me to open up (rather than bottling emotions).

On the outside, I was the bloke who had it altogether. I was high achieving, social, physically fit and outgoing, and I was also the first to help anyone else with their challenges. I was really good at putting on the mask and telling everyone I was “all good”. On the inside however, I was crumbling. I was facing significant challenges inside my head, which I had no idea how to deal with or how to articulate to those around me. When I did muster up the courage to be vulnerable, it was clear the people around me didn’t have the skills to support me safely.

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It was through this experience I finally understood society’s stigma about mental health and how we, as a community, do not always have the tools or education to help those around us struggling with life’s challenges.

Admitting you are struggling is not easy, so it’s very important the person we turn to doesn’t shut us down, and rather, takes the time to listen, understand and provide constructive suggestions for referral pathways to support our journey.

As conversations around mental wellbeing become more prevalent in Australia, our mindsets around stigmas and perceptions are being forced to change. Just as we have physical health, we also have mental health, and at some stage, for many of us, the challenges we experience in life put our mental health at risk. This stigma can prevent people from getting the help they need, so education and informative counsel are our best defence.

One of the main purposes of The Banksia Project is to tackle this head on, reduce the stigma in society and alter the perception men, in particular, can’t show emotion and talk openly about their feelings.

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As a community, we can reduce prejudice and promote social inclusion to improve mental health by:

  1. Learning and sharing the facts about mental health and mental illness.
  2. Talking openly about your own experience with mental illness. The more hidden mental illness remains, the more people continue to believe that it is shameful and needs to be concealed.
  3. Speaking up when friends, family, colleagues or the media use language or misinformation that perpetuates false beliefs and negative stereotypes.
  4. Offering support to people when they are unwell, whether they have a physical or mental health problem.

Australian men traditionally aren't great at being vulnerable. Be it nature or nurture, we are more inclined to keep our feelings to ourselves as it is comfortable and habitual.

"In order for men to begin to open up, I believe it’s vital we give the blokes around us permission to do so. How do we do this? By being vulnerable ourselves."

Through our vulnerability, we give permission to others to express their emotions, their challenges and if needed, ask for help. As I have shared my story of mental health struggles, I have found my community much more willing to be vulnerable.

The Banksia Project is recognised for encouraging men to open up, listen and learn how to manage challenges in life through our free monthly Growth Rooms program, facilitated by trained volunteers. Ironically, many of the men running through our Growth Rooms program develop a passion to help others and undergo our Facilitator training to run their own group of men, becoming role models in their community.

On average, after just three Growth Room sessions, our participants report feeling:

  1. 40% more connected
  2. 30% more resilient
  3. 25% happier

We can only hope the more people get involved with our free programs, the more we change the narrative surrounding mental health and encourage those who need help, to seek it.

For further information, you can contact us at info@thebanksiaproject.org.au

The topics we are discussing may trigger feelings and thoughts that may or may not be expected. If you’re concerned about your mental health, or a mate’s mental health, it's recommended to encourage them to see a doctor, or to call Lifeline on 13 11 14.

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