More room at the table

The Men’s Table is expanding its reach in Western Australia opening another branch in suburban Perth.

The charity already has three tables in WA, including Subiaco, Mount Pleasant and Geraldton.

The Men’s Table is one of many groups focussing on improving mental health. Video: Oliver Lane.

The Men’s Table involves a monthly meeting over a meal, where 12 men discuss stories from their lives to promote emotional sharing and fostering a sense of community.

Damian Tapley, The Men’s Table WA Regional Host, says the groups are a great way of practicing sharing authentically and listening.

Damian Tapley has been organising Men’s Tables in WA for the last six weeks. Photo: Oliver Lane.

“The Men’s Table offers that opportunity for people to be heard, to be acknowledged and to be known, and that’s really important.”

Damian Tapley

Mr Tapley says feelings of loneliness are widespread and networks are especially important in regional areas.

“There’s a different dynamic in the regional areas and there’s less population and maybe the culture of those places are a bit different,” he says.

“But absolutely the need for it and the appetite for it is understood, regardless of location.”

The Men’s Table brings a variety of men together to share. Photo: The Men’s Table.

Men are over-represented in suicide statistics, making up almost 75 percent of suicides in Australia, according to Lifeline.

The issue is something Gerhard Rousseau, founder of Men of Hope, has witnessed throughout his career.

“From my observation men tend to have less of a drive or motivation, or perhaps willingness to socialise when I compare them with women,” he says.

“When men have mental health challenges, they tend to internalise many of that due to various reasons.”

While Mr Rousseau sees the issue of loneliness worsening he did say community groups were a good way of connecting people.

“Any men’s group whether it is an interest group and talking group, a group around food, music, walking … anything that can promote dialogue or people or men to get together around a common cause, that would be fantastic,” he says.

One group that is aiming to promote healthy discussions in the workplace is Mates in Construction.

Sean Brady, field officer for Mates in Construction, says while stigmas are improving, there is a lot of work to do.

“It’s not weak to speak anymore,” he says.

“That stigma, we’re starting to break that down. So if you are struggling, just reach out for help, you’d be amazed at the amount of people that we speak to and just by having a conversation, we automatically feel that pressure being relieved,”

Mates in Construction talk at Curtin University. Photo: Oliver Lane.

ManUp WA says a sense of community and comfort with vulnerability is being promoted at many schools for boys, aiming to stamp out harmful stigmas before they develop.

Ashvin Sharma, externals vice-president of ManUp WA, says the education and defining of manhood needs to be “cemented” early.

“We’re big believers of it has to be done at a high school education level while their minds are still young still, malleable and still able to make a dent on some impressions,” he said.

“It’s much harder for a 21-year-old bloke to go in there and change their mind about it.”

More Men’s Tables are planned for Greenwood, Mandurah, Albany and Busselton.