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HomeLatest NewsOne for the boys: service provides guidance to local men

One for the boys: service provides guidance to local men

A men’s mentoring group has emerged in Manly to bring connection, support or simply a space to spitball ideas with like-minded adult males.

The monthly Men’s Group, organised through Mentoring Men, meet at LocalKind (formerly Community Northern Beaches) centre in Raglan St once a month. The next session is this Thursday 11 April from 10am-12pm at 52 Raglan Street in Manly (full details here).

The registered charity is also providing free one-to-one advice and guidance for men who are facing challenges or trying to resolve personal dilemmas. The voluntary service “focus on a proactive approach, engaging with men who need help before they spiral into crisis.”

Manly Observer caught up with Community Engagement and Support Officer John Sharpin and uncovered his own remarkable journey of recovery.

What brought you here ?

“I was a police officer for 14 years,” John revealed. “I specialised in domestic violence and became a police prosecutor and I took a special interest in domestic violence in that as well.

“Eventually, though, I developed a mental injury in the police and I had to medically retire. I spent years working on my own mental health and looking at why I developed unhealthy coping mechanisms with the problems that I was developing.”

John Sharpin, Community Engagement and Support Officer with Mentoring Men, Manly. Photo: Alec Smart

John struggled awhile dealing with the challenges he faced.

“Now that I can look back on how I approached the world then, compared to how I approach the world now, with the help of the team of professionals that have put me back together mentally, I feel so inspired.

“There’s hope for men to face their challenges and overcome them; whereas at the time I felt like there was no help. I’ve been through the deepest levels of grief and sadness and doubt that I’ve ever experienced in life and now I feel such hope and promise for the future… It’s good to be able to talk someone…”

John Sharpin, Community Engagement and Support Officer with Mentoring Men, Manly. Photo: Alec Smart

Mentoring Men – what does that involve?

John explained the non-judgemental nature of the help-group.

“We are a mental health organisation that creates mentoring relationships and connects men with lived experience of challenge, or lived experience of success in a particular area, with men who are going through that challenge or want to be particularly successful in an area,” John summarised. “It’s free one-to-one live coaching. A national organisation that’s supported and run by us.”

He continued, “We also provide professional training for volunteer mentors who want to give up their time to help another man and help tackle loneliness and make sure that no men walk alone as they’re going through their challenges….”

A mentor is someone you respect and respects you, who listens and gives sensible advice. Photo: supplied

And what do you mean by ‘relationships’?

“A mentoring relationship is a particular type of relationship,” he elaborated. “It’s a person who you respect and respects you, who’s willing to listen and give advice and guidance in a particular area.

“They’re not a friend. People have friends, and a friend might give you advice, but they might have residual interest in the advice they’re giving, in maintaining that friendship and that positive connection, making sure that you like them. Whereas a mentor is a person who is there to guide you and might tell you something that a friend might not tell you. And, in turn, you might tell something to a mentor you might not tell a friend, because that mentor is there to give specific advice.”

The Mentoring Men website affirms: “Sometimes just having someone listen, without judgement or agenda, can be the difference between life and death. Our volunteer Mentors provide vital support for men which in turn creates stronger, healthier families and communities.

“Why only MEN? In short, men represent 75% of all suicides in Australia and yet most suicide prevention support services are more effective at reaching women not men.”

How does the process start?

John said that Mentoring Men conduct an ‘intake interview’ to determine what issues someone is facing and if they’re in the right frame of mind to get the assistance of one of their mentors.

“We don’t take people who are currently going through a crisis,” he explained, “or in need of mental health professional intervention.

“If a person comes to us and they are in a crisis, like, for example, they recently had suicidal thoughts, or they have untreated drug or alcohol issues, or if they’re particularly violent, they may not be suitable for our programme… We say that ‘we are for all men, but we’re not for you right now.’ So we can refer them onto appropriate services to help them get what they need to get out of a crisis.

“But we like to get people into that preventative space before they need specialist attention. Or otherwise we support them while they’re using those services, or get them when they’re on the way out of their crisis.”

Mentoring Men – mentors giving good advice. Photo: supplied

Mentoring is about guidance, not problem-solving.

“We really emphasise to those that seek our service that the mentors aren’t there to solve personal problems,” John insisted. “You know, if a person is facing financial hardships, the mentor isn’t there to tell them what to do to fix their life. They’re there to teach them and help them find a way to solve their own problems.”

John recommends mentors and mentees meet at least once a month, face-to-face, in neutral spaces like cafés (away from alcohol consumption). “Then the process of building trust begins, and eventually setting goals and working out problems…”

Are what sort of men seek the services of Mentoring Men?

“There’s a real mix,” John considered. “We’ve got guys who are facing addiction, separation, grief, they’re dealing with disabilities, isolation from moving into a new country. They might simply be setting up a new business and experiencing the challenges of that…

“We’ve got men with lived experience of all those things, everything from PTSD to sexual identity issues. We’ve attracted a wide range of diverse people. And then we’ve got men who have been particularly successful with their career or their businesses, or know how to help people find their place in their career or businesses and want to help men reach their best.”

Loneliness is another factor in low self-esteem and struggling to cope.

“One thing we’re doing at the moment,” John revealed, “is working with the Mental Health Commissioner of New South Wales to examine the experience of loneliness in men, and whether our one-to-one life coaching programme can help them experience loneliness in different ways…

“I’ve learned that loneliness isn’t just being alone and being isolated. It’s also feeling left out. It’s also feeling disconnected. It’s also feeling unseen. And we’re hoping that the old adage that ‘sometimes we can feel lonely in a room full of people’ when we help people learn how to be vulnerable and connect with others, so that they can feel less lonely.”

Sometimes overcoming loneliness is the first step to resolving a personal challenge. Photo: supplied

Mentors also become mentees

John explained how those who sought help with guidance often take on a guiding role.

“A lot of our mentors, after developing trust with their mentees – that’s the person who’s getting support, sharing stories, sharing experiences, etc. – we find that after a while they do actually develop a friendship.

“And once that friendship develops, and the person’s achieved the goals they set out that they wanted to achieve with their mentor, a lot of time we find that the mentees then go ahead and want to mentor other people.

“So it’s helping people get through challenges then supporting other people…. You can really be vulnerable, share what’s going on, have someone listen and give you something that is known as ‘unconditional positive regard’ and help you find solutions to your problems…”

Mentoring Men: https://mentoringmen.org.au/

Manly Men’s Group: https://mentoringmen.org.au/manly-mens-group/

Phone: 1300 583 925

Email: info@mentoringmen.org.au

Social Media links: * Facebook * Instagram * LinkedIn

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Manly Observer is an experiment in providing non-sensationalist hyperlocal news on Sydney’s Northern Beaches. We cover the big news across the LGA, but with a hyper focus on the Manly electorate encompassing Balgowlah, Seaforth, Freshwater, Brookvale and Curl Curl up to Dee Why. It is run by those living in the community for the benefit of an informed community. We care about an informed and connected community. That’s it. Simple. Thank you for your support in keeping quality local news alive!

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