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"A lot of our time is banter and a cup of tea."
Chairperson, Ballaghaderreen Men's Shed, Roscommon
You can’t ask men who struggle with mental health issues to go into a health centre in rural Ireland, you haven’t a hope in hell. The big secret to our success from a health and wellbeing perspective is you bring the professionals into the shed. The men, if they’re familiar with the surroundings and they’re familiar with each other, they’ll open up a lot more.
We have a great workshop but we haven’t an awful lot of work that goes on in it! A lot of our time is banter and a cup of tea. On any given night we could have up to 25 or 30 guys in playing cards or playing pool.
At our last AGM I was trying to encourage some of them, so I told them I’d spent the last eight weeks going to a counsellor. After the meeting, one of two of the guys said, “Jesus, aren’t you awfully brave admitting that” and I said, why? I had a problem and I needed it to be fixed. There’s all these misconceptions. Men don’t always want to hear about mental health, they don’t feel it’s for them.
There’s a lot of men who live in Ballaghaderreen that don’t have an awful lot to do because there isn’t a lot to do. They walk around the town all day and either go into the bookies for company or go into the local pub for company, but they’re not drinkers and they’re not gamblers. They’re just missing the people connection.
We wanted to stay connected during Covid so we came up with this concept of townland walks. Each man in our shed had to invite us to his townland, he had to pick the route, and give us a little cultural talk. A lot of guys come into the shed with low self esteem, they prefer not to engage, so we brought the engagement out to them, to spaces they’re familiar with, and it was a huge success.
We had a doctor join us one evening, the men on the walk were able to ask him stuff they’d never dream of asking a doctor, because, he looked like them, he was roughly their age, they were able to relate to him. That’s the beauty of the Men’s Shed.