INTERVIEWS WITH MEN
Frank Wilkie, age 57
Deputy Mayor Noosa Shire,
former journalist and high school teacher.
Staying healthy means firstly, valuing your health, making it a priority.
I’ve been lucky and have loved distance running since I was 13 and run almost every day of my life.
The run seems to stimulate a creative perspective and, if done at a comfortable pace, makes you feel great.
Easy does it. A little bit each day is better than pushing so hard you’re hobbling the next day. Take it gradually and you can build to distances you may have never thought possible.
Last year was my first 50km. I think if you have a physical outlet, you tend not to over-indulge on junk because you don’t feel so good.
Health also means valuing healthy relationships, I’m lucky to have had a father who always told us he loved us, so I do the same to my wife and daughter. I tell them I love them every day, as you never know when your time is up. I also aim work in good faith with everyone.
If you truly value the relationship, it will survive almost any disagreement. That said, it’s also important to know when a relationship is not healthy and you have to let it go.
Interests are important too. For me, I was lucky to discover acting and playwriting at Noosa Arts theatre which is fantastic therapy, a great creative outlet. Working with like-minded volunteers on the committee there is also rewarding because theatre gives delight to others.
Brian O’Connor, age 65+
Pomona local and community advocate.
I think walking is one of the best things for all-round health.
The Heart Foundation estimates that walking for an average of 30 minutes or more a day can lower the risk of heart disease and stroke by 35 per cent and assist in managing weight, blood pressure and cholesterol levels. Contentment is another by-product.
We recognise our insignificance in nature when we stroll its trails and understand best the workings and scale of towns when viewed from eye-height. My favourite walk takes me from the centre of town through Cooroora Creek Park – Pomona’s Great Central Park, if you like.
All the senses are stimulated, even down to smelling what people are preparing for their evening meal.
And I give the dogs something to bark at.
The park contains exercise equipment, which I can use, and I look forward to the council augmenting the exercise stations there.
Walking also has a social context. I enjoy the incidental interaction with people as we stroll paste each other.
Ben Byrne, age 32,
P.E. teacher Pomona State School
“For me, the most important things are daily exercise, time with mates at least once every couple of weeks and, of course, a well-balanced diet. Cutting back on alcohol where possible is also something a lot of blokes could benefit from and time with kids/family is another one I feel assists with mental health.
As a PE teacher I’m fairly active all day from Monday – Friday. I have my fitness tracker watch that counts steps and I generally go home from school with between 15000 and 20000 steps in a day.
Each morning before school I’m at the gym doing weight training. This is a big one for me in regards to both physical and mental health. As we age, we begin to lose bone density and muscle mass so weight training is a way of combating that for all of us over 30 years of age.
I also definitely feel more energetic at work after I have weight trained in the morning. If I ever miss a session before school, I often find I have less patience and am not in as good of a mood as I normally would be.
As far as exercise goes, I like running, swimming etc. I definitely struggle for motivation and don’t do as much of it as I should. Same goes for flexibility and mobility but these are also things that are important for both physical and mental health. I believe the more flexible we can get as well as still being strong, the less injuries we should have and less general aches and pains that can add to our daily stresses and make things seem worse than they may be. So, becoming more flexible and mobile is on the to do list for me!
I try and eat really well from Monday through till Friday afternoon. This means no take-away, alcohol, sweets etc. I stick to lean meats, fruit, veg and wholegrain carbs where possible. Nothing really processed or with heaps of sugar. From Friday arvo through the weekend I allow myself to pretty much whatever I feel like. I still eat pretty well over the weekend but if I feel like a packet of chips or a few beers I let myself have it and I know that I’ve earned it. I find this is a good system for me personally but it’s not for everyone. My wife does pretty much the same thing so this helps me to stay on track and we keep each other accountable.
As for mental health, I think weight training each morning and starting the day with exercise sets me up to be in a good mood straight away. I really enjoy my job which is a bonus and spending time with my kids and wife after school and on weekends is a big one for me. Having said that I also think men need time with just their mates, away from the wife and kids once every couple of weeks.
Whether it be sitting around having a drink and a bet at the pub or being involved in a team sport. The comradery guys get when they are just with their mates is huge for positive mental health.
I have been very lucky not to have any major health scares thus far in my 32 years of life. Working in the sun I get my skin checked every 12 months and also get my cholesterol checked regularly as heart disease runs in my dad’s side of the family. It can feel like a drag sometimes doing these things but at the end of the day I think knowing you have a clean bill of health after these check-ups really puts you in a good frame of mind and this in turn assists with mental health.
50+ Pomona Police Sergeant.
Well, it’s better to wear out than to rust out! I think blokes my age (50+) need to put aside time every other day for exercise that makes you happy enough to want to keep doing it and that hopefully has the added bonus of including some mates or family to add a social element and impetus to continue.
For me, that’s mainly cycling, pushbikes and the motorised dirt bike kind and bush walking, all of which I’ve done on and off since I was a kid.
The downside to an active life can be injuries, I’ve broken my right leg twice, blown my lower back disc at L4/5, torn my shoulder tendons all requiring lengthy furlongs to recover. Regular exercise is so clearly linked to improved mental health, whether from a dopamine rush at the top of Mt Cooroora, a surf, or a relaxed bush walk in one of our myriad great tracks or beaches, golf, bowls, whatever works.
I also like to combine exercise with nature, so you get the combined payoff of a great view and some sweat, Hells Gates in Noosa NP and the Noosa trail network for cycling, walking are great examples of this.
The catch up at the end over coffee or a few beers is probably just as important and you can hash out your weekly wins and losses to a non judgmental audience. I get pretty slack so having good mates to train with forces you to disengage
from Netflix and the groove in the couch which is so seductive after a stressful day at work.
I do try and lock in those recommended medical health checks every six months or as required. We all hear of near misses when undetected symptom-less problems get picked up during scans and blood tests etc. Bottom line is, we’re blessed with so many options for exercise on the Sunny Coast, get out there if you’re able!
Hobbies! At 50+ and working for the past 35 years at a job that is a frontline seat on life, good and bad, getting separation from the policing lifestyle is very important to me. Engaging with family and friends outside the job gives you a mental holiday and an outside perspective. But I reckon a few hobbies that involve “me time” are also vital to unwinding the big internal spring.
Apart from exercise, I like to travel, locally and interstate (pre Covid of course), reading anything non police related, particularly history, on real paper which seems to be more relaxing than kindle or lit screens, guitar playing and archery when I can.
I do a sedentary job and diet is hit and miss so, combined with middle age, it’s probably lucky my belt still fits. Seeing so many examples of stress and mental health related issues in the jobs we attend, I’ve come to recognise when my bottle is filling up and luckily, we don’t have to travel far to have a great break.
Male police are probably the worst when it comes to recognising and getting help for their own issues and dealing with stress, as far as the job has come in supporting us, and there’s still a mix of expectation to carry on at all costs and personal pride not to show weakness, that stops many of us from reaching out.
This has seen tragedies and loss of life in this job and the service is striving to provide as much support as possible in and outside the workplace.
I’m currently reading a good book on mindfulness and living in the moment, which sounds simple but is contrary to a modern lifestyle in many ways but may hold the key to achieving that much desired balance and peace of mind.
65, Pomona resident and lover of life
“For me health is everything – without your heath you have a whole pile of restrictions that stop you from doing what you want to do and you can get stuck into limbo asking yourself what life’s about.
I have a regime in the morning that starts with a coffee – the most beautiful coffee of the day - and then I walk for about hour and a half sometimes more. I like to walk quickly; I think about what I want to do during the day and it helps me turn things over in my mind. Walking is like an addiction for me – it sets up the day ahead for me.
I eat well – my wife is into nutrition. We’re not on a diet, but we’re careful about what we eat. There are some meats I won’t eat and we have meat maybe once a week. Vegies are an important part of every meal and I eat fruit during the day. I believe you are what you eat and that has a lot of bearing on your well-being.
I don’t take anything for granted, not my health nor my emotional happiness. I stay connected with family and look after grandchildren once a week. I love listening to music – it makes me really happy. I don’t spend a lot of time watching tv – I rather read a book.
I believe that the most important thing is your attitude to life. Everything comes back to attitude – respect for yourself (you’ve got to love yourself first) and respect and empathy for other people – treat others how you would like to be treated and make the most of what you’ve got around you!
age 65, Lions Club and Probus Club volunteer.
Geoff says he loves his busy retirement which includes being a member of the Cooroy/Pomona Lions and Probus. He also loves being a part of the Pomona community and having time to hang out with his family and grandchildren.
“For me, health and physical well-being equals emotional well-being and happiness. I am careful with my diet which includes low-fat, gluten free, sugar reduced products, plenty of fruit and vegies and no processed meats.
Exercise is really important to me. I’ve been cycling regularly since the mid-80s and I’d be lost without being able to jump on my bike. I also love to walk, garden, hike and surf. Exercise doesn’t just keep me physically fit but helps me work off stress and work through any tough or uneasy emotions. It is sometimes hard to ‘maintain the drive’ as I do experience back pain but I think it’s important to find a balance between pushing yourself while not doing your body any further damage.
As far as mental/emotional health goes, I love to read non fiction which keeps my brain active and alert and I love to keep learning new things. Volunteering keeps me connected with others and helps me stay tuned to the needs of others. I also love the fun, friendship and fellowship of being involved with the Probus Club.
Playing with my grandchildren, whether it’s climbing trees or getting down and playing Lego keeps me young at heart.
One thing that’s really important to me is ‘purpose’. I try and set some daily goals which I mix up with leisure activities. Accomplishing those goals gives me a sense of achievement no matter how small the goal.
I guess I could sum up my attitude to health by saying EXERCISE, GOOD DIET, FAMILY = PURPOSE = HEALTH and HAPPINESS.
Rod Mulder, (pictured left) over 70, Deputy Treasurer, and Colin Thompson, (pictured right) over 70, President
Men’s Shed Pomona
In their words:
The purpose of the Men’s Shed in Pomona is we support the health and well-being of men in Pomona and the surrounding area by providing a venue for men to gather in a safe and friendly meeting place. While we have all kind of activities on offer, such as woodworking, metalwork, a plant nursery and a pottery shed, (when we are allowed to get together again!), we find that it is the friendship and camaraderie that our members appreciate the most.
At the Men’s Shed, men can either leave their troubles at home and engage in friendly banter and find some distraction in the activities.
Alternatively, we offer a space where genuine and authentic conversations can happen; conversations that can help men work out difficulties and concerns they might be experiencing, knowing they are understood without fear of reprisal and that what they say is said in confidence. We feel that this is of immense importance in supporting men’s mental and emotional health.
Even while we have been in ‘lock-down,’ our members have rallied around to support each other. We have set up Zoom sessions and emails to communicate with each other and to stay in touch which keeps us connected. The self-isolation ‘cocoon’ is creating a bit of cabin fever which is beginning to get the better of us – everyone wants to be back at the Shed as it’s become such an important part of our lives.
To contact the Men’s Shed Pomona, call Colin Thompson on 0438 639 686.
56, long time Cooran resident, lover of adventure and the outdoors
I have always been a really active person and I love outdoor activity so staying fit and healthy is really important to me. The following are some of the things I do and that I believe can help us stay fit.
Have an annual check-up with a GP and be honest with him or her about any health worries.
Get exercise - preferably with a group of likeminded people at least twice, preferably three or four times a week. Make the exercise something you enjoy and that takes a lot of focus.
Doing something that takes a lot of focus is relaxing for me even though it is kind of stressful. Mountain biking, unicycling and trail running do this for me. Heading down a trail on a bike at full tilt or running down a mountain leaves no room for any of life’s worries, it puts me in the now, a kind of meditation I guess.
Learning new skills for work and pleasure and challenge. Taking up unicycling at 47 was one of the many pursuits I have endeavoured to be good at over the years. My latest is learning to operate an excavator.
Climbing out of the pit. Yes, even with all the above, s@#t still happens and I end up in the pit fairly regularly. Sometimes the pit can be a very deep, dark hole and it can take days to get out of. Making a list before bed for things to be done the next day helps. If things are bad, I might only get one thing on the list completed but it will help.
Sometimes it can take two or three days before the gloom starts to subside and a week before it’s forgotten.
Probably the most important is keeping a good connection with my wife. After 30 years it can be difficult to keep things exciting and new but it’s important to try. We adventure race as a team and find that the challenges and adversity that this sport throws at us is a great equalizer for our skills and stamina.
Don’t eat too much bad food. I try but I’m not good at this one so offset it with eating enough good food!
65+ retired Pomona Businessman and community volunteer extraordinaire.
“There was a time, like most males, that I thought that I was invincible. I was reasonably fit and didn’t eat too much junk food, had an active social life and was involved in my community.
Then I got older and old war wounds from sport, football, karate etc quickly reminded me of that. I realised that if I was to keep up with the grand kids both mentally and physically then I should have a plan as I had seen many men of my age simply stop and vegetate.
So, I believe it is important to keep moving both mentally and physically, I do this by walking every morning where I do a few laps of the big park with Hercules the wonder dog (he does about twenty laps).
I walk with a few other men and dogs so there is a social aspect as well which to me is important. I prefer to walk up steps rather than use ramps, I like to do my own home maintenance, I know my limitations.
It is important to keep mentally alert so I read, mostly recipes and newspapers, currently I am addicted to “Code Breaker” a word game. I do the grocery shopping and all the cooking (this allows me to pour a glass of red while prepping). I am also a volunteer in the community mostly with Meals on Wheels which I enjoy immensely. Adult onset Asthma, enlarged prostate, sinus issues and titanium rod in my tibia keep me reminded about my vincibility. But activity, no matter how small, and social/mental stimulation is working for me.
48, Pomona resident, Real Estate Agent
So, here’s my thoughts on men’s mental health. I remember when we were having kids of our own reading a book, I think it was called “talking to boys” or something like that. I remember them saying that if you’re doing something with them to start a conversation with boys is easier. So back then it would be walking, fishing or kicking the footy and nowadays it’s probably working on cars. I don’t think there’s much difference when talking to blokes, men are really just boys in an older body and better conversations start in a relaxed atmosphere.
I also think physical health has a lot to do with my mental health, I know if I exercise, even just walking in the morning, I feel a lot better during the day and the more I do the better I feel and the more energy I have.
My family has a long history and not the best history, with prostate cancer, especially on my father’s side. He has eight brothers and seven out of the eight have been diagnosed with prostate cancer and they’re all still alive. So that’s important to me and for my family to get that checked regularly. Men should always get checked out and I guess the fear of not knowing or she’ll be right, probably is not the best attitude to run with.
I think I know in myself and I feel a lot better when I’ve actually finished something or I can look back and see what I’ve done. You know whether it’s a project car, even spraying the fence line or mowing the yard, to look back and see what you’ve actually accomplished, I think that helps a lot. We run around thinking that we are just doing a lot of stuff without actually finishing something we enjoy. I also find getting back to nature helps me, walking along the creeks at Amamoor or 4Wheel driving through the rainforest to the rock pools....it all helps, but camping up the beach at Teewah is my happy place.
Life has become so busy that we don’t take the time to catch up with mates - having a game of golf or a beer at the pub - so that connection with other blokes to see we are all going through stuff has broken down.
Last year my brother-in-law and I started I group we called “Relate to a mate” which, at this stage, has just been a weekend away up the beach. We’ve had a few, probably two or three now, and it’s really just one or two nights - whatever people can do. You know when we are up there, guys will fish, go for walk on the beach or blokes that haven’t driven a four-wheel-drive on the beach will jump in a mate’s car, we even tie in a beach clean-up, which is good for the soul and the turtles.
It’s been interesting, it’s never the same crowd and every time amazingly we’ve seen two people who have never met before talking about serious issues that they both have in common and it’s just seems to come out of nowhere.
Standing around a campfire talking about sh*#t that has no interest to our partners is good for us and we really need to accept that it’s okay to be a bloke. We all love our families, but I guess we need to look after us too.
50+, Cooran resident, Physiotherapist
Before going into ‘mens health’ specifically let us postulate how the human mind and nature might perceive ‘health’ by comparison:
The human mind might say that health is the state we are in when we are full of vitality and not unhealthy. Yet the totality of nature would likely not understand such a reply. This is because nature does not split itself into any form of duality. It seems only the human mind does this as a default to perceive the world. The flow of nature is intimately integrated to everything and doesn’t isolate one event from any other, despite our senses being unaware of the subtle relationships. Health might, therefore, be considered the moment(s) of freedom one has when the borders formed by the illusion of separation dissolve. In other words, when health is ‘unstuck’ it is free to express itself. The preamble above is merely food for thought. Nevertheless, it could also prime the reader to be wary of the very phenomenon which may prevent the expression of health…i.e. our own conditioned perception. That said we may now appreciate the practical capacity of thinking dualistically without getting stuck in it. So let’s continue by comparing male and female health: It is common for society to perceive the male gender as being stronger than the female. It is fair to take this view as, in general, men are bigger and more muscular than women. They can lift more, run faster and throw things further. However, if we were to regard strength as health in general we would be looking at quite a different picture.
Let’s use gender longevity to act as an example:
A century ago the average Australian male lifespan would have been three years less than that of a female. Men would have lived to about fifty five and women to around fifty eight years, which is sobering for me because if I were living then, at my current age, my years would be drawing to a close. Despite an Australian now averaging eighty three years it is interesting to note that there is now more disparity between gender longevity than a hundred years ago; women live to an average age of eighty five and men to just under eighty one. One extra year into the negative might be considered a trifling issue, that is until we consider the likelihood that men living in the early 1920’s would have been exposed to a higher level of mortality inducing events compared to woman who had past child bearing age (1). Furthermore, a disparity in the gender age mortality ratio is only a relatively new demographic phenomena as before the later half of the 19th century there was not any recorded significant difference! Needing to activate physiologic survival responses are much less common than in the past, at least according to the cordial picture that modern day society paints and expects. Be that as it may, we cannot undo the wiring and responses which have taken millions of years to evolve. So, when society asks for an adrenaline inducing argument/altercation to either be averted, ignored or subdued we will also need to suppress our physiologic responses. Yet, neither men or women are taught how to suppress physiologic responses such as the flooding of noradrenaline from the adrenal glands (2) or tightening of the pericardial connective tissue. Moreover, it could actually be physiologically harmful to continually suppress such responses, especially if one dissociates from the physical sensations associated to the event.
( 1) Eg Manual work, such as construction without health & safety governance etc
If adrenaline is constantly secreted into the system then the medulla of the adrenal glands will eventually fatigue and cortisol production will take over to maintain physiologic priming for the fight-flight response. This will subsequently cause an imbalance to the ‘DHEA-Cortisol ratio’3 (fig 1), which has been shown to be significantly related to mortality risk (in addition to mental disorders). So, the ongoing memory of an unsettling event, or the projection of a potentially discomforting situation, could maintain the DHEA-Cortisol imbalance for a long time…perhaps ones whole life.
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50+, Local Business Owner
After the interview with Mark Evans, we continued to talk. Mark revealed the deeply personal nature of how recent events had left him feeling and how he was able to reach out.
“This all happened just before COVID, prior to having to close the gym down and I wasn’t really in a good place to talk to anyone body at that stage except the members of my gym. We’re all like a big family so they knew what I was going through and they gave me the space I needed. When a couple of them tried to help, I just wanted to push them away because I was like; ‘Hey I’m the person that people reach out to, I’m not reaching out to you ’. To find myself on the other side of that coin was…so, so bad.
“So, I had to ring my doctor and I said, ‘I’m actually really worried’. My doctor asked me, how I was feeling and I said to him, ‘I’ll be honest with you, I feel like I’m treading water in the middle of the ocean and I’m getting tired and I’m sinking. I’ve got my hand out and I’m waiting for that boat to come past and for someone to reach out and grab my hand’, and he was like, ‘Holy sh#t! You’d better get your arse into here right now.’
“The doctor ended up prescribing medication which I was so anti – so against, but he said, ‘All this will do Mark, is it will give you a boost and it will give you a bit of clarity again.’ He said, ‘At the moment you’re in a really dark place, you can’t see the sunshine out there.’ I told him I’d make a deal with him and take it for three months. He said that even within a week I’d feel much better. I tell you, whether it was the placebo effect or what, within a week I was skipping around and before that I was all doom and gloom.
“I’ve just passed the three months now, so that’s how recent and fresh all this is which is why I’m choking up a bit. So, even though I hated going through it I’m actually grateful for the experience because it’s given me more tools to use with the people that I work with. Mental health is a really big thing for me because we lose so many kids in our sport and I’ve probably lost six good friends. Their lives mattered but at that time they felt so alone and I used to think , ‘How could you do that?’, sitting at a funeral with 200 people there and thinking, why couldn’t you reach out to anyone of these people. That’s why I want to tell my story. It’s OK to reach out – sometimes it’s the only way. It’s tough, but you’ve got to do it.”
If the content of this interview brings up concerns for you, please reach out to someone you know or call one of the following services:
Mensline Australia: 1300 789 978
Lifeline: 13 11 14
Beyondblue Helpline: 1300 224 636
Suicide Call Back Service: 1300 659 467
Standby Support After Suicide: 0418 656 764
QLife: LGBTIQ+service: 1800 184 527
Kids Helpline: for people up to 25 years of age: 1800 551 800