In recent years, multiple organisations have been founded to improve men’s internal lives and reduce the stigma surrounding speaking up around mental health. Outside the Locker Room and Business Fight Club are two such organisations. They focus their efforts by reaching out to sporting clubs and workplaces to educate and provide support for men in their everyday lives.
Outside the Locker Room was built off the back of the personal struggles faced by Founder Jake Edwards. In his third year at the Carlton Football Club, Edwards was diagnosed with depression. After being de-listed the following year by the club, he found the transition to everyday life very difficult and turned to alcohol and drugs. Following a suicide attempt, Edwards created Outside the Locker Room to create a turning point for others as he discovered the issues he faced at the elite sporting level are no different to those at the local community level.
His project, Outside the Locker Room is a welfare and educational program that provides free immediate support from a trained welfare team. Their educational programs offer schools or sporting clubs two visits per year, which that focus on preventative education to help people identify the signs of mental health. Edwards understand the importance of starting a conversation about mental health, and believes having experienced issues himself only helps the program.
“We are everyday people who have lived stories and have a passion for giving back and educating around mental health,” he told upstart.
Dennis Armfield’s project, Business Fight Club, shares a similar focus of aiming to create change and provide men with the strategies to live a life of control, create healthy living and thrive in all areas. Men can find support through various workshops and activities or in-depth one-on-one coaching program.
As Head of Business Fight Club Armfield believes there are multiple factors that fuel the stigma surrounding men’s health such as society, fear, comparison and personal pride.
“There is no doubt about it, we all as humans have a learnt response to everything. The influences in our life, the journey we have travelled and the leaders that have led our ‘thinking’ play a huge part in how we each as individuals deal with this space of our mental wellness/ health. So, the main one would be – who we let condition our thinking,” he told upstart.
Jake Edwards agrees that the stigma has been passed through generations and the different use of language and behaviour towards boys compared to girls has only facilitated it.
“Boys, we find it difficult to communicate our feelings and emotions. We generally reflect that through anger and frustration, we are not conditioned from a very young age to actually sit down and talk about how we are feeling and what’s going on, rather we close it off and not want people to worry about it,” he said.
Edwards has seen an increase in the amount of individuals reaching out for help since the beginning of Outside the Locker Room, with the most prominent age demographic 17-25 years identifying symptoms of depression and other mental health issues. He encourages young men to build a small network of support within their sporting and everyday lives. Armfield highlights the importance of stopping and reflecting to make the right adjustments moving forward.
“I don’t have all the answers; you don’t have all the answers but together we have a lot more. Let’s unite and make it normal to fight together,” he said.
Business Fight Club and Outside the Locker Room strive to enhance men’s lives by providing strategies, education and workshops that encourage young men to start a conversation about their health and identify the signs within themselves.
Armfield believes that if men are given the tools to recognise these issues as they come up, they can start to help themselves.
“We want to empower men to be proactive when it comes to their health, rather than reactive. We want men to make sure they give themselves regular opportunities to stop, slow down and reflect on how they are truly going in all aspects of life. We believe that if men give themselves this time, they can make the adjustments necessary before things become too great and get out of hand.”
Caitlin Pilatti is a second year Bachelor of Media and Communications (Public Relations) student at La Trobe University. You can follow her on twitter @caitlinpilatt