Johnny Moore: Man up and help your mates through the tough times

Johnny Moore's "dodgy brother-in-law" shows the caring side of manliness in the All Right? mental health campaign.
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Johnny Moore's "dodgy brother-in-law" shows the caring side of manliness in the All Right? mental health campaign.

OPINION: Have you seen my dodgy brother-in-law on billboards around Christchurch?

He's one of the faces of the latest All Right? campaign, which seeks to celebrate the tapestry of manliness.

I've become friendly with a few of those involved in the All Right? campaign through them socialising at my bar.

John Kirwan started a discussion about the mental health costs of manly staunchness that needs to be continued.
HAGEN HOPKINS

John Kirwan started a discussion about the mental health costs of manly staunchness that needs to be continued.

Good bars should be places where debate and discussion take place, places where people talk about things like mental health – places where people keep an eye on their mates.

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The first step to addressing mental health issues is to talk about mental health issues – lord knows the current approach isn't working if our suicide stats are anything to go by.

I love the notion that All Right? are pitching manliness as being more diverse and nuanced than the strong silent archetype would have us believe.

On Radio New Zealand last week I was asked if we are getting past a Man Alone type of thinking.

Fans of NZ literature will recognise John Mulgan's novel – Man Alone – being used as shorthand for a type of manliness that we often associate with being a Kiwi man.

Plenty of Kiwi writers have played with the archetype. Barry Crump loved it; in fact he managed to make a career by playing off it. Frank Sargeson fetishised it. Those that came in the wake of the old boys perpetuated the myth.

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What the All Right? folks are telling us is that this is just one kind of manliness and while it may work for some people, it probably doesn't work for the majority of men.

It didn't work for poor old Mulgan, who after a hard time during the war, committed suicide while still stationed overseas. So the man that helped define manliness in New Zealand took his own life – sometimes irony isn't funny at all.

This says something about how dangerous myths can be. Especially when men feel the need to live up to unachievable ideals.

Recently, I had the pleasure of participating in a writing workshop with Witi Ihemaera​ – a man as close to literary royalty as we have.

I got to thinking about how Witi represents another type of manliness. It's softer and gentler than what we're often presented with; it's learned, thoughtful and peppered with Greek and Maori myths.

Witi is softly, but well-spoken, erudite and considered. He's oozing mana and, to use All Right? terminology, he's manly as.

Now talking about men's mental health isn't new. To be fair, John Kirwan should be given a medal and heralded as the rugby player who dared to speak about the unspoken.

I think Kirwan started a discussion that needs to be continued.

Because the folks at All Right tell me that one of the best ways to prevent mental health problems from taking over is to talk about them so that people can find a route to mental wellbeing.

So let's think about what being a New Zealand man in the 21st century might mean. With all the talk of smashing the patriarchy and the dismantling the hegemony of late, men have become easy villains. But be careful, they can be sensitive souls.

Again I implore you to look at the suicide stats. They make sober reading and don't get reported on enough.

You'll notice how misrepresented men are.

The time's come to start talking. And it's not just suicide – that's one horrible conclusion – it's depression, anxiety, fear of failure and all the things that are gnawing away at Kiwi blokes.

So look after one another folks. Let your friends know that you're there for them. Remember that real mates aren't just fairweather mates, they're mates when times get tough.

 - Stuff

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