Can he fix it? Yes he can

Isolation has sparked the creativity in many, as people have taken up home renovations and Do It Yourself projects around the house to occupy their time during the COVID-19 pandemic.

As communities are working together to maintain the population’s health by staying home, their mental health can often be put on the backburner.

A study by the California State University found that hands-on activities help to support our mental health through stressful times.  

The 2017 research looked into how activities such as gardening have a positive influence on our physical and mental wellbeing, in providing a healthier choice to stress reduction.

The Australian Men’s Shed Association was one of the first organisations to recognise the link between hands-on building while simultaneously supporting the wellbeing of men.   

Despite community sheds being closed around Australia due to government restrictions, they have taken to online video meetings and drop off deliveries to keep members engaged and prevent further isolation.

AMSA Men’s Health Project Officer Stuart Torrance says the Men’s Shed environment allows members a place to contribute their practical skills and knowledge.

“The beauty of a men’s shed is that you could go to a woodworking group and build a table, but that table would have to be perfect at the end.

“You go to a men’s shed and build a table, if that table has a wobble it has character, you don’t need to be perfect in a Men’s Shed,” he says.

“There’s a sense of pride and achievement [in building projects] and I think it does much for people’s mental health and wellbeing, from that confidence building.”

Mr Gowler’s nicely organised shed. Photo: Isabel Vieira.

Other members of the community have taken on their own home renovation projects and DIYs with their newfound spare time.

Councilman and community member Lee Gowler has been actively involved in not only his own home renovations, but assisting those on his street.

Mr Gowler says when COVID-19 first began people weren’t sure how much time and money to invest into projects and hobbies to keep themselves occupied.

“When this [COVID-19] first happened no one really knew how long it would last, how intense it was going to be and whether it [renovations and projects] was a good thing to spend money on,” he says.

Mr Gowler painting his side gate. Photo: Isabel Vieira.

“I always get a great pleasure in looking back at old pictures from when we first bought this place, and comparing it to now, it’s a feel-good thing.”

Mr Gowler is also aware it’s possible to have too much of a good thing.

“I’m trying to do Bunnings cold turkey at the moment,” he says.

Twenty-year-old Henry Carrington-Jones is using his time in isolation to renovate a home for himself off his family’s farm in Toodyay.

Henry says the fact that many people don’t have full-time work or aren’t working as much has created time for them to work on projects they otherwise wouldn’t.

“What’s interesting is that for a lot of people money is an issue, and I think that points to the DIY side of it, giving people something to do but also improve their home while they’re doing it,” he says.

“It’s a pretty dull down time and this is something [home renovations] I’m constantly excited and constantly thinking about, looking at second hand furniture, watching videos on how to do certain things.”

Henry says the renovations have kept him busy and his mind occupied.

“The fact that you get to see positive progress on your surroundings because you’re spending so much time in and around your house its quite a relevant thing, to appreciate where you’re living.”

Mr Gowler’s self-built shed complete with man’s best friend. Photo: Isabel Vieira.

Chairman of the Cockburn Community Men’s Shed Peter Hodgson says the transformation of people after regularly attending and becoming proactive in projects is dramatic.  

“He [Men Shed member] went from basically having nothing to do when he woke up in the morning, to waking up with an objective for the day, somewhere to go, some routine, it changed his life,” he says.

“We have blokes express that to us quite often, that now they have a reason to get up in the morning.”

Mental health organisations such as Beyond Blue have created dedicated Coronavirus Mental Wellbeing Support Services to help Australians manage the impact the COVID-19 pandemic has had on their mental health.

Beyond Blue Chair The Hon Julia Gillard says as citizens were advised to remain physically active during isolation, it’s just as important to practically uphold your mental health.

 “Just as people are looking after their physical health, we’re asking people to actively look after their mental health.”

Mr Torrance says he encourages everybody to try their hand at home renovations and DIY projects, despite their skill level.

“Go for it, give it a go, it’s amazing what you can do, I’m a practical hands-on person but I wouldn’t say I was particularly skilled.”

If you or anyone you know needs help call Beyond Blue on 1300 224 636 or MensLine Australia on 1300 78 99 78, or visit their website here.