Tag Archives: men

“A spring in their step” – John Evoy of Irish Men’s Sheds on Newstalk

12 Feb

We spoke recently about Men’s Sheds in Ireland. The movement got some welcome coverage on Newstalk’s Global Village with Dil Wickremasinghe last night.

John Evoy, CEO and founder of the Irish Men’s Sheds Association, described Sheds as spaces in communities where “fellas who may have time on their hands can come together to use their skills and talents and energy and ideas to enrich their lives and also to contribute to the communities that they’re part of.”

The first Irish Men’s Shed was set up in Tipperary town in August 2009. There are now 40 in operation, with a further 40 in planning.  John’s organisation receives three or four queries a week.

John explained that inside a Shed, you might see men working on a woodwork project or renovating a chair, fixing an old bike, drinking tea or playing darts. Sheds aim to create a positive and healthy atmosphere for men and to encourage sharing of feelings and looking after each other. John explained that men are more open to sharing when working together on a project, as the focus is taken off them and instead put on the job at hand.

There are over 700 Sheds in Australia, where the concept of Men’s Sheds originated.

The Irish Men’s Sheds Association was a 2011 recipient of an Arthur Guinness Fund award.

Listen to John talk about Men’s Sheds here

Find your nearest Shed – or get involved in setting one up


Brent Pope – “A sensitive old soul”

9 Feb

The rugby world not exactly being renowned for getting in touch with its emotional side, it was refreshing to hear rugby commentator Brent Pope talk to Ryan Tubridy on RTE radio last week. The interview veered unexpectedly from talk about the rugby team to Brent’s anxiety and commitment problems.

As a child, teenager and rugby player, Brent was an extremely anxious person – about everything. Brent said he is drawn to art, books and other creative things. Being a deep thinker can be both positive and negative, as you can talk yourself into things.

He had, and still suffers, panic attacks for no particular reason and described how these can immobilise you.

Though he has met ‘wonderful women’ in his life, he is anxious about committing. Confidence is a problem: he worries when in a relationship about why they would want to be with him.

Brent said he works hard to overcome these problems in small steps and describes this as a long journey.

As ever when these issues are broached, particularly by men, there has been much positive comment about Brent’s courage in talking so openly. Hopefully, others experiencing similar problems will be inspired by Brent’s candidness to seek help or to use Brent’s interview as a reason for raising this topic with loved ones or friends.

Listen to Brent open up on RTE 2fm here (about 49 minutes in)

Read about Brent’s opening of an art gallery in Dublin’s docklands to encourage people with mental health issues to display their work

Men’s Sheds – Men don’t talk face to face: they talk shoulder to shoulder

8 Feb

Did you know that communities across Ireland are setting up Men’s Sheds – places where men can socialise, network, make friends and share skills? Men’s Sheds aim to recreate the atmosphere of “real life” sheds – safe spaces where men can feel confident to discuss and exchange information.

We all know that men are less likely to talk about their problems or feelings than women, which can aggravate problems with mental health.  The Men’s Shed movement, which originated in Australia, wants to help men to reach out to other men and become valued and valuable members of their community.

Shed with two red flowerpots

A Men’s Shed is described as any community-based, non-commercial organisation that is open to all men and provides a safe, friendly and inclusive environment where the men can gather and/or work on meaningful projects at their own pace, in their own time and in the company of other men and where the primary objective is to advance the health and well-being of the participating men. Men’s Sheds are an innovative mix of community education and health promotion projects.

Read about Men’s Sheds in Ireland and find your nearest Shed – or get involved in setting one up: http://www.menssheds.ie/

And check out Australia’s Shed TV, which features regular videos on DIY, cooking and nutrition, health topics and lots more: http://www.theshedonline.org.au/news/index

Shane Mullins and male blues – “Big depressed heads on them”

7 Feb

Today’s Irish Times features a brilliant, no-nonsense summing up of the need for men to talk about their mental health. The article profiles Shane Mullins, who has been touring the country talking about the approach he used to get his life back in shape after a serious car crash in 2005.

Shane calls his programme D’mess – for determination, motivation, emotional support and social life – and he uses it to try to help young people tackle their own problems. On the topic of men and depression, he says:

“Lads go round with big depressed heads on them because they think they can sort things out themselves. They cannot. There’s no way any human in this room can do anything on their own; I’ve learned that. I can manage my physical health on my own, but no way can I manage mental health; that’s what I try to get across. Learn to talk to people. It doesn’t make you a wimp.”

Andy O’Brien sparks Newstalk discussion on depression

2 Feb

Once again, the case of a high-profile sportsman who suffers from depression has brought the illness into the public domain. In the same week as the inquest into the sad death of Gary Speed, Leeds defender Andy O’Brien’s winning back of his first-team place after receiving treatment for depression sparked a discussion on Newstalk’s lunchtime programme yesterday.

Jonathan Healy talked to psychiatrist Brian Sweeney about practical steps to help those with depression, the concept of ‘mental fitness’ and Irish attitudes to the illness.

Practical advice

Dr Sweeney listed the following as signs that someone may be suffering from depression:

  • Sleep disturbance
  • Weight changes – generally weight gain
  • Loss of interest in activities usually enjoyed
  • Unusual reactive emotions eg anger
  • Strange thoughts
  • Odd behaviour eg over-drinking, withdrawing from people

If you suspect a close friend or family member of having depression, Dr Sweeney recommends as a first step simply having a good chat with the person to assess what help they may need. That help may involve talking to a GP or a counsellor or to a psychotherapist or psychologist.

Mental fitness and men with depression

With women more likely to be treated in hospital for psychological depression, Dr Sweeney explained that it’s simply part of the male psyche to be hardwired to suppress these responses. Instead of denying these emotions, men should realise that facing their emotional life is a sign of inner strength.

In Australia, where there has been a sustained effort across media to address the problem of depression, the suicide rate has fallen by 20 per cent in the last 15 years. A key to these efforts has been giving men, particularly vulnerable young men, easy access to counselling in places such as clubs and gyms that address depression in the context of overall mental fitness. Mental fitness involves addressing mental health in a similar way to physical health, whereby we accept that getting physical exercise is a necessary and positive thing.

Changing attitudes to depression in Ireland

In Ireland, which has yet to embrace this concept of mental fitness, stigma still surrounds depression and suicides continue to rise. This is despite the work of organisations such as Aware, which have been campaigning for years to encourage discussion about the illness.

Dr Sweeney explains that we need to accept that it is normal and natural to sometimes feel depressed and that it’s okay to go through times in our lives when we are highly stressed. There are ways of dealing with this – with the most useful approach being to share our problem with people. We need to normalise this aspect of our lives in Ireland. This approach need not cost more money but just requires a reallocation of resources. For example, in Australia, web-based systems are used to help people work through their depression.

Dr Sweeney mentioned that in the workplace, it is difficult for managers to deal with employees who suffer from depression – but we need to identify when people are genuinely unwell. The ultimate reaction of Leeds United to Andy O’Brien’s illness and Andy’s braveness in talking about his problem contribute to enouraging discussion and breaking down the stigma that sometimes surrounds depression.

Listen to the podcast of the interview here: http://media.newstalk.ie/podcast/28452/popup