WHEN you’re dealing with bloke problems, you need a bloke to walk with.
That was the main message from Regional Men’s Health Initiative executive officer Owen Catto, who was one of the guest speakers at the recent FMIA annual general meeting and conference.
A former farmer, he is now involved in presenting a range of educational programs and strategies for rural and regional men, their families and communities.
Using the analogy of servicing a car to keep it in optimum operation, Mr Catto said men needed to undergo regular ‘pit stops’ during their life-time to guard against physical and mental health problems.
He encouraged FMIA members to do a “shock absorber” quiz “to determine the quality of your shock absorbers”.
“How do you travel on the road of life?” he asked.
“Know that 70 per cent of the choices you make affect your well being and your perception of what is real or imagined.
“We are born with random DNA to deal with issues, particularly the unspoken issues and for people in the bush a lot of that relates to stress – worrying about the weather, finances, unresolved family issues, etc.
“But stress is normal and most people are in that zone which I call situational distress.
“One hundred per cent of us spend time in there every day and for some it can be weeks, months or years.
“It’s identifying the symptoms that move people from that zone to mental illness, such as depression.
“We need to re-set the normal bar after every event we encounter that makes us anxious or stressful and that means talking with somebody, preferably a mate to get back into the ‘being well’ zone.”
Mr Catto said also identifying symptoms was a major help.
In his “shock absorber” quiz, he underlined two of the 10 points as “majors” – difficulty falling asleep or staying asleep because of worry and losing interest in food, sex, recreation, socialising, etc.
“Now that can be normal but it’s having an abnormal response to a normal issue that is the problem,” he said.
According to Mr Catto, men were good at hiding themselves.
“Blokes can self-medicate by working harder and talking less and that’s a pointer to something going on in their lives,” he said.
“Blokes like to go into a cave if they’ve experienced trauma, for example, but many can find it hard to come out.
“But research has shown that 90pc of suffering through a traumatic experience in our lives is resolved by having a cuppa with somebody and talking, because 99pc of blokes affected by trauma or severe stress have the answer to overcome what they’re suffering.”
Owen said one of the biggest problems in the future for WA agriculture was a prediction there would only be 2000 farmers left in WA within the next 10 years.
“So there will be increased physical and community isolation and those two factors are the biggest pre-disposition of poor mental health,” he said.
p The Regional Health Men’s health Initiative has published a book, called Working With Warriors, providing tips and stories to help you maintain balance in life. You can access a copy by phoning 9690 2277 or firstname.lastname@example.org
The web address is regionalmenshealth.com.au