The fellowship of the ring

A new trend of ‘men’s circles’ is gaining momentum among the men of Perth in the hope of further breaking through the restrictive stereotypes surrounding men’s mental health.

Statistics from Beyond Blue show men are three times more likely to die by suicide than women.

On average, more than six men die by suicide every day across Australia.

Feelings of inadequacy, weakness, loneliness and depression are common themes contributing to this statistic.

Infographic: Imogen Wilson.

With an increasing amount of support being offered to men’s mental health, experts say they’re beginning to see positive change in the emotional and psychological expectations men have of themselves and others.

Joey O’Dell is the founder of a ‘Men’s Circle’ in Harrisdale, south-east of Perth. He says the open and emotional interaction in the group setting has transformed his life.

“It’s a free space, where any man can open up and share what he wants to share,” he says.

“As much as he wants, or as little as he wants; sometimes there’s no obligation to share at all.”

Mr O’Dell established a men’s circle after feeling he needed a place where he could openly express himself.

“I felt like I really needed it for myself,” he says.

“Having a group of supportive men in the community, where we can just come, open up and share.”

Joey O’Dell says he started a men’s circle to create a safe space for sharing and connection. Video: Imogen Wilson.

Mr O’Dell’s circle is held fortnightly on a Thursday, and has a consistent turnout between 13 to 22 people, after beginning with just four in December last year.

Chairman of Men’s Health & Wellbeing WA John Rich says men’s circles are a significant step forward in understanding and supporting men in their mental health journeys.

“Men don’t have a voice. Well, they do. They just don’t use it,” he says.

Mr Rich says he wants to encourage younger men to be confident in overcoming societal barriers when expressing themselves mentally.

“It’s a buzz to see people in their 20’s, or even younger starting to head down the pathway of self-awareness, and talking openly about supporting themselves and others,” he says.

With an extensive background in counselling and various mental health avenues, Mr Rich says being part of a men’s circle validated his experience of ‘immasculinity’ and allowed him to see that he wasn’t the only one struggling.

John Rich says men’s circles have given him validation. video: Imogen Wilson.

“A men’s circle is beneficial in so many ways,” he says.

“We need to learn to accept things that aren’t particularly masculine like, tenderness, sensitivity and gentleness.”

Men’s mental health and behavioural counsellor Amy Breen says three-quarters of men don’t feel able to share and speak freely to friends and family about how they feel.

“Men’s circles are massively beneficial,” she says.

“Particularly for men in their 20’s or 30’s, because that’s when men begin to feel vulnerable and inadequate in certain areas of their life.”

Ms Breen believes it’s time to ditch stereotypes and embrace the power of open sharing that a men’s circle offers.