Mental health in the spotlight again

MENTAL health has again been thrust into the spotlight with the possible introduction of an innovative program in the SE.

A non-government funded program, Menswatch is delivered to groups of up to 50 at a time, using the unique setting of an all-male group to engage men in learning new knowledge and skills and gaining confidence in supporting other men through a range of issues.

Burra farmer Bill Stockman, from Ski For Life and the Menswatch Action Group, ac.care and Ski For Life's Sue Watt and Primary Producers SA's Sally Fisher after the information session last Thursday where community leaders discussed the potential for a program to run in the SE looking at suicide prevention for men.

Burra farmer Bill Stockman, from Ski For Life and the Menswatch Action Group, ac.care and Ski For Life's Sue Watt and Primary Producers SA's Sally Fisher after the information session last Thursday where community leaders discussed the potential for a program to run in the SE looking at suicide prevention for men.

Over 1700 SA men have completed the program, which is delivered by a facilitator to select groups of community leaders.

A staggering 78 per cent of completed suicides are men and one out of every six men are affected by depression.

This statistic is close to home for the Menswatch Action Group's Bill Stockman, who has battled his own mental demons in the past and wants to help prevent others from going down the same path.

"I became suicidal several years ago," he told the Herald.

"Going back to my farm (after spending time in a mental health facility) I realised there was no follow-up treatment."

It was after this that Bill initiated Ski For Life last year - skiing from Wellington to Renmark to raise money and awareness about depression and suicide.

The money from this event has been used to fund the running of Menswatch programs.

"The money had to go somewhere," Mr Stockman said.

"The programs have received a great response, people have been organising reunions and coming back together to talk about how it has helped people."

Mr Stockman was in town last Thursday and met with SE community leaders, including Naracoorte Lucindale Council mayor Erika Vickery and Anglican minister Wayne Corker as well as local farmers and other community members.

He told how the program was not aimed necessarily at men suffering from depression, but sought to give men the tools they need to talk about it with others.

Past program facilitator and Mundulla farm manager Rick Hinge used his experience with the program to explain.

"A person with a 7/10 depression often struggles to come," he said. "Generally it's the mate that comes, then they go to them."

A Menswatch planning committee was set up at the session, with those nominated including dairy farmer Andrew Cavill, Adrian Sernus from Community Corrections, Mr Corker, Wattle Range Council mayor Peter Gandolfi, mayor Vickery, Men's Shed representative Barry Rogers, Mr Hinge, SAPOL's Trevor Twilley, Primary Producers SA's Sally Fisher and ac.care's Sue Watt.

Mr Stockman said there was a facilitator ready to go whenever a program could be initiated.

The planning committee would need to look at a range of factors for the program, including who would be the target audience and whether multiple programs could be used with different audiences - depending on the availability of extra funding.

The committee would look to target people with connections/respect/leadership roles in the community such as agribusiness professionals, coaches and mentors for the program.

A total of $5292 plus GST is needed to run the program, for a facilitator to cover wages, transport, accommodation and course materials if delivered in three sessions over three weeks.

Other costs include food and venue hire - a venue is still to be decided.

The Menswatch committee and Ski for Life have raised sufficient funds for one program for the SE and one in the Riverland this year.

It was suggested at the meeting that extra funding could be sought from Primary Producers SA, SELGA and Naracoorte's Friends With Benefits group.

Mr Hinge said there was a need for sustainable funding models identified as a priority in the medium term to enable the program to be delivered constantly without government funding.

"It's got to come from individuals," he said. "It's got to come from people."

The committee will continue to meet in order to discuss and further plan the program.

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