Emotional regulation a focus for Men’s Health Week

WITH depression and anxiety effecting millions of Australian men, Mates4Mates is raising awareness of the importance of mindfulness and emotional regulation to improve quality of life.

After joining the airforce in 2001 as a specialised airforce defence guard, Glenorchy resident Nate Fenton knows the issues returning Australian Defence Force (ADF) men and women face.

Mr Fenton was deployed overseas to the Middle East for a period of six months, where he conducted aircraft security operations and VIP escorts and protection in a team environment.

In mid-2007, Mr Fenton was discharged from the airforce and returned to Hobart to look for work in the civilian domain.

“I found it really difficult to go from a place that had such an ethos of teamwork and structure to a civilian workspace where I couldn’t identify with the structure or comraderie that didn’t appear to be there,” Mr Fenton said.

“For a long time I tried to battle on by myself and find this sense of civilian identity within myself.

“I struggled for many years, and it was only through a vocational occupational rehab that they suggested I get in contact with Mates4Mates in September last year.”

Mr Fenton said Mates4Mates assisted with providing him with pathways to social connection.

“Coming back from deployment you can see the risks, such as social alienation and disconnection with your civilian family and friends,” he said.

“Mates4Mates is a great place for returning veterans to find a reconnection within the community – they’ve been part of the defence force community for however many years and this is a place for them to find new networks and a sense of community outside the defence force.”

Mates4Mates specialises in providing rehabilitation and support services for current and ex-serving ADF men and women with injuries, including mental health issues, and their families.

Currently in Australia it’s estimated that one in five men will experience depression and one in eight will experience anxiety – all risk factors for suicide.

Men make up 75 per cent of all suicide deaths.

Mates4Mates liason officer Brendan Barry said the biggest killer of soldiers was loneliness.

“Loneliness leads to substance abuse, it leads to internalising emotions and could lead to suicide, so Mates4Mates provides that mateship and builds that network,” he said.

“When you’re given an ADF uniform, you’re given a set of values and identity, and when you get out there isn’t that purpose, mission or feeling of importance anymore.”

The services Mates4Mates offers includes bushwalks, workshops, social programs and the STAIR Program, which teaches participants emotional regulation skills and inter-personel function over 12 weeks to improve day-to-day life.

Mates4Mates Tasmania manager Josh Miller encouraged men of all ages to use evidence-based strategies of practicing mindfulness, remembering to “STOPP” and using sensory skills to help manage their mental wellbeing.

“STOPP stands for stop, take a breath, observe, pull back for perspective and practice what works –  it helps us effectively address and manage emotional responses that are challenging, difficult or that cause anger,” he said.

“Everyone can experience strong emotional responses at times, but it’s important to understand that there are ways to help stop negative thoughts and feelings from spiralling.

“But it’s imperative that if symptoms persist, you see a health care professional – we can all take small steps to improve our mental wellbeing from day-to-day.”

Mr Miller said speaking out and asking for help would also help further reduce the stigma surrounding mental health issues and encourage more men to seek help.

For more information, visit mates4mates.org or phone 1300 4 MATES.

Australians can also contact Lifeline on 13 11 14 or Beyond Blue on 1300 224 636 for support.

Caption: Mates4Mates liaison officer Brendan Barry, left, with ex-airforce personnel Nate Fenton.

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The Hobart Observer is your monthly community newspaper, reaching over 24,000 homes and businesses in and around the City of Hobart. It is the product of Nicolas Turner, Justine Brazil, Ben Hope, Simon Andrews, Tobias Hinds and guest contributors, with support from advertisers.

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