Program helps men cope with sexuality

Published 1 October 2003

Helping men cope with sexuality problems and improving their health and social skills is the focus of a new program to be offered at the Men’s Shed in Nambucca Heads in November.

The programs are being put together by Bill O’Hehir, a staff member in the School of Psychology at Southern Cross University. They are timed to finish before Christmas, which is a traditionally bad time for suicide and relationship breakdown.

Mr O’Hehir, who has just returned from a men’s health conference in Shepparton Victoria, has been working in the men’s health field for more than 20 years and has been involved with the Men’s Shed for nearly 18 months.

“My role has been to try and assess what is happening to these men. We know that men are coming in with broken relationships, depression, and anxiety. Some are suicidal or can be substance dependant,” Mr O’Hehir said.

The Men’s Shed gives men the chance to develop skills in a range of areas such as boat building, furniture making and literacy/mathematics. They also have regular lunches where they cook their own meals and share them.

“After a period of time they are improving their self-esteem. What the Men’s Shed is doing is giving them a reason to get out of bed in the morning.”

Mr O’Hehir said a lot of men had a poor ability to deal with relationship breakdowns. He said 80 per cent of divorces were initiated by women who, by the time they made the decision to leave their partner, had already been through the grief process.

“The men are in the first stage of grief and that is anger. They are angry at the relationship breakdown. They can also be angry for allowing themselves to focus on work and then realise that towards the end of their life they don’t know their own children.

“They feel totally betrayed. They start to drink and put on weight and that makes it harder to move into new relationships.

“Some of the programs that we are going to look at doing are teaching middle-aged men and older males about intimacy, sex and social skills.

“Men in their 50s, 60s and 70s have certain moral and social ideas that no longer exist. What I am going to try to do is give blokes confidence in what they are doing so they can start to value themselves.”

Mr O’Hehir said men’s sexuality was another area that needed to be addressed and there would be confidential sessions designed to give men tips on how to meet the needs of women.

“We need to educate men to express their emotions better. The sexuality side of it is important.”

He said he hoped the program would be up and running by mid-October. The Men’s Shed is also planning a conference, to be held in May next year, to bring together participants and co-ordinators of other men’s sheds, located throughout the country.

For information about the program contact Terry Maher at the Men’s Shed on 65685090.

Media contact: 02 6620 3144, scumedia@scu.edu.au