Depression is a major problem with men.
Loss of employment for men, be it from retirement, redundancy, job loss or illness can mean a loss of identity, purpose, companionship and other factors.
When men do not have the daily routine of working life they often become depressed. Now, Australia has come up with a way for men to combat this by finding a centre for themselves to do interesting handwork and meet up with other men in a similar situation. This is the Men’s Sheds movement. This is not just a hobby provision. In Australia it is reckoned that at least 1,200 men attribute their lives to the Shed Movement which gave them the resources to avoid suicide.
As the Irish Men’s Shed internet site puts it - “Men’s Shed is any community-based, non-commercial organisation which is open to all men where the primary activity is the provision of a safe, friendly and inclusive environment where the men are able to 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 may look like a shed in your back yard but they can be seen an innovative mix between community education and health promotion projects.”
In Australia men combat these problems by finding a centre for themselves to do interesting handwork and meet up with other men in a similar situation. This is the Men’s Sheds movement, based on the idea of the shed at the bottom of the garden where a man had a workbench and some tools and could do some practical work’ . It has proved such a success in Australia that the prime minister has given it enthusiastic support and given 3m Australian dollars to sponsor its spread. It is seen as something which promotes men’s health and not just a hobby sponsor. It has even helped Altzheimer sufferers who had ceased to communicate with their family.
The Men’s Shed is a place with tools to do practical work. It doesn’t have to be very smart. There is no fixed programme and some will enjoy chatting while others do work of various kinds with skill sharing and mutual help. It is not just the community providing a service for these men, it often leads to projects where they provide something for the community. They use materials which would otherwise be wasted, sometimes in landfill and from it make useful objects. Going round Whitby I often pass skips where re-usable timber and other material lies out in the open which could have been given a new life in a Men’s Shed.
The movement has spread from Australia to Ireland and now is finding homes in England. On BBC 4 we heard that it is being sponsored in NW England, so why not NE England too.
Whitby might be a very good place to have a Men’s Shed for many retired men and those unable to find employment. Whitby has got a very good U3A in Whaler, yet there is still a need for this type of association which gives companionship and a relaxed atmosphere which builds confidence and self respect.
In the case of Whitby I suggest that the Railway Engine Shed, a heritage listed building with very poor access for other uses, but a very suitable site for the Whitby Men’s Shed. It is now in a good state of repair as this was a condition of the building of the last phase of building on the Cooks World site. This is something which would not require an immense amount of capital to start and would provide Whitby with a much needed facility and a use for a building which is looking for a purpose. It is also something whose value would bring sponsorship.
For those who would like to learn more about the movement who can use the internet please look up
www.menssheds.ie for what is starting in Ireland
www.mensshed.org for Australia.
www.menssheds.org.nz for New Zealand.
M Dawson by email