By Danielle Kutchel
A Blokes Night Out in Bunyip promised to be a frank conversation about mental health for men in the local community – but according to those who went, it was so much more than that.
It was a night about the vulnerability of men and the issues they face in society, their ability to engage with and talk about their feelings and the impact on family and friends if they don’t.
And it was an encouragement to treat young boys with tenderness and care, to break the spiral of poor mental health and create respectful and healthy men.
Guest speaker Wayne Schwass, a former AFL premiership player, opened up about his mental health battles throughout his sporting career, offering a glimpse into what depression really looks like.
Garry Burns, a fire-affected resident and member of the Community Recovery Committee, said he had been reluctant to attend the event at the start but was ultimately glad he did.
“I didn’t want to hear bad news about depression or suicide because with my involvement in the recovery, for me it’s about the whole network of teams and volunteers working together in a positive manner moving forward.
“But within the first minute, I thought ‘oh this bloke’s going to be fun!’” he said.
“I considered him to be a modern day advocate for the promotion of good health for the mind, body and soul.”
Mr Burns said Mr Schwass used the analogy of cars to encourage guests to look after their mind, body and soul.
“He said you continue to service your car because you know what happens if you don’t service it. Every part of the car has a job to do and if you put good fuel in, the engine will operate the way it should.”
Mr Schwass also told those assembled to speak to their GP if they feel something isn’t right.
“It wasn’t depressing, and it was good because he was explaining something where he had been there, done that,” Mr Burns said.
He hopes that the Community Recovery Committee can arrange for Mr Schwass to return for another event at the 12 month mark of the recovery.
Tony Fitzgerald, president of the Community Recovery Committee, said the night was challenging but rewarding.
“The men there received it really well, and it was a positive slant,” he said.