Wellington health professionals taking a collaborative approach to men's mental health

Several speakers, each with a different health expertise, are aiming to challenge the current paradigm of depression by ...
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Several speakers, each with a different health expertise, are aiming to challenge the current paradigm of depression by providing a different way of seeing and dealing with men's mental health.

A combining of minds and skill sets is at the heart of a new collaborative approach to dealing with – and helping improve – the mental health of Kiwi men.

Several members of the Ancestral Health Society of New Zealand (AHSNZ), including a nutritionist, sociologist, men's group presenter, psychologist, and naturopath, have joined forces for a series of informal talks focused on men's mental health. 

"Our aim is to provide an event with a sense of community, discussion, understanding, and solutions to men's stress challenges, rather than a lecture on it," Wellington clinical psychologist Karen Faisandier said.

Clinical psychologist Karen Faisandier is leading the collaborative event which will feature several members of  the ...
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Clinical psychologist Karen Faisandier is leading the collaborative event which will feature several members of the Ancestral Health Society of New Zealand (AHSNZ).

Faisandier was inspired to hold the event after a meeting with a naturopath where they both realised they were "very much on the same page". 

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"Felicity [Leahy] and I had both been looking for other like-minded health professionals thinking about things in different ways so it was really serendipitous."

Phil Becker, centre, is one speaker who will share his own experiences during his talk, 'The Mental Man: Depression and ...
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Phil Becker, centre, is one speaker who will share his own experiences during his talk, 'The Mental Man: Depression and How it Led to Winter Swimming. In Wellington Harbour. In Just speedos'

The decision to focus on men's health specifically was a conscious one with women already, by comparison, widely catered to.

"We want to destigmatise the 'harden up' or the 'she'll be right' mentality that results in isolation and shame."

Faisandier said often when it came to men's health, depression was more of a physical symptom of too much stress in the current Kiwi diet and lifestyle rather than a psychological disorder.

"In today's environment, many men are constantly stressed, which has insidious and widespread effects on men's minds, bodies, and behaviour."

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"Our physiology is the same as it's ever been but our society has rapidly changed and we have not evolved to keep up with that ... yet," she said.

During the upcoming event, the speakers, who each have different expertise on the topic, will discuss what it means to be a man in the 21st century, depression and coping, as well as dietary changes and finding ways to relax.

"The talks are interconnected with the topic around what it means to be a man, the stresses, illness and recovery so that's a common theme." 

"The recommendations end up being really repetitive, it's about understanding the stress response, where it's gone out of whack and what you can do to get it into balance again."

The informal gathering is set to be held at a bar which Faisandier said was a deliberate choice to help make attendees feel comfortable.

"We wanted to put it on neutral, familiar territory."

* Rethinking Men's Mental Health, Mac's Function Centre, August 19, from 1pm, more information and tickets from ancestralhealthnz.org/event/wellington.

 - Stuff

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