Online Safe Spaces for Australian Men
Regional men throughout Australia are turning to social media to find support for issues affecting them, including mental illness. The private Facebook group, called the Virtual Pub, has already attracted over 50,000 members.
The group is working to reduce stigma
Group administrator, Callum Orchard, commented to ABC news that the group allows members to discuss issues they would be uncomfortable with otherwise. Members can share their stories without fear of being judged, and to connect with others who are experiencing similar issues. Orchard’s group is helping to foster community, he said:
It’s creating the culture where blokes aren’t just random blokes anymore; everyone’s starting to become mates.
Because it is a private group, members must be invited by existing members. Orchard and other administrators filter the posts for appropriateness and approve each member individually. Orchard reports that the group receives up to 200 requests to join each day. He says that a lot of members are noticing this culture shift and inviting their mates to get involved as well. The group is working to break down the stigma that it’s “weak to speak”, with more and more men stepping up to add their voice.
Helping to spread awareness about mental illness
The Facebook is helping many men to learn more about mental illness and understand its causes. One member, Drew Shearman, found that joining the group helped him to understand his wife’s mental health issues. Shearman is a shearer from Fullerton Cove, and found that there was a scarce amount of support for him.
Without the social support from the Virtual Pub, he wasn’t sure if what he was doing was the right thing. He found that expressing his experience with other men and finding common ground was extremely beneficial. Talking about these issues openly helped Shearman and other members from bottling up their issues, which proves to be detrimental later on. Shearman advised others regarding their own issues:
Don’t be afraid to talk about it. Find someone you trust and feel you can talk to, and just have a chat. You may find they’re going through a similar thing and be able to find support there.
What we can do to help
By enrolling in Mental Health First Aid, you too can join the league of MHFAiders who are helping others with mental health problems. Learn about different mental health concerns such as depression, anxiety and substance abuse, the symptoms associated with each and what resources and aid you can provide. Together, we can reduce the stigma surrounding mental health concerns.