19 November 2019

Mates support mates for better mental health

| Tim Gavel
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Dave Oliver, Uni Norths Owls coach

Dave Oliver, Uni Norths Owls coach and Canberra Growth Room facilitator. Photo: Supplied.

Dave Oliver is speaking from experience when it comes to dealing with mental health battles, and the need to begin a conversation in a non-judgmental and safe environment is part of this.

As well as his personal experience, his role as the third-grade coach at the Uni Norths Owls often exposes him to the struggles faced by young men in the ACT.

Three out of four Australians who take their own lives are male and male suicide continues to be the biggest killer of men aged 15 to 44 years of age. Canberra is not immune to the tragedy of suicide.

ABS data from 2017 shows that male suicide in the ACT more than doubled from 2016 to 2017, three out of four suicides in the ACT are men and suicide is the cause of death of nearly four men every month in this jurisdiction. Hence the huge need for support to help build resilience for life.

This is why Dave has become a facilitator for the Banksia Project, a mental health charity with former Canberran Jack Jones as its program director. Through the project, a monthly Growth Room has been established to allow men to meet up and talk about life’s issues. They are then provided with useful tips to help them in their daily lives.

“It’s about early intervention; mates supporting mates,” says Dave, “It’s all about providing a safe space. It’s all about talking about life in a safe facilitated way and providing resources. It’s about sharing and connecting.”

Dave Oliver has been joined by Trevor Weir as Canberra facilitators for the Growth Room. Trevor is a worthy facilitator.

“Trevor and I have both had to face our own mental health issues,” Dave says. To a certain extent it adds to their understanding of the pressures faced by young men.

While personally involved in sport, Dave believes it is important to take the conversation away from that structure.

“There’s a certain way to behave in a sporting environment where it’s competitive. At times the focus is on hyper-masculinity, where we have to be tough, and it’s hard to express vulnerability. This program offers something away from the sporting team environment.”

Each meeting facilitated by Dave and Trevor has been designed by mental health professionals and supported by an on-call psychologist. There can be up to 10 men in the support group at any one time.

Dave says it’s important to highlight the support available to young men, support that was absent when he was growing up.

“When I was dealing with mental health issues there was Black Dog and that was about it. There weren’t the early intervention services that exist today.”

Despite the introduction of a number of these services that focus on men’s health throughout the Canberra community, the statistics reveal that much more needs to be done.

The Banksia Project’s Canberra Growth Room will have its first meeting on 27 November at the ANU North Oval from 6.30 p.m. to 9.30 p.m. It’s free of charge, confidential and everyone is welcome.

For further details, visit the Banksia Project.

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