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June 20, 2024 7:02 PM

Upper Hunter Men’s Sheds Complete Mental Health First Aid Training

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Groups from the Cessnock, Denman, Singleton and Scone Men’s Sheds gathered to undertake Mental Health First Aid training.

BY MEREDITH BLAIR

Upper Hunter Men’s Sheds gathered earlier this month to complete a Mental Health First Aid course as part of the Buoy Project, a research collaboration that addresses the evidence gap in effective suicide prevention interventions for boys and men in Australia.

The course was the culmination of the Men’s Shed’s involvement in the project, a research collaboration between five universities, including the University of Melbourne and 14 community organisations, including Mental Health First Aid Australia with a commitment to preventing male suicide.

A key part of the Upper Hunter’s involvement in the Buoy Project was John Sharples, a member of the board of the Australian Men’s Shed Association and Cessnock Men’s Shed.

“I was at a state meeting and somebody from the University of Melbourne came to talk to us about the Buoy project which was a suicide questionnaire and reference group,” John said.

“I thought, this is what sheds should be about, they’re more about this camaraderie of men outside, talking to one another.”

From there, John convinced the Cessnock Men’s Shed, as well as shedders from Cessnock, Denman and Singleton, to complete three surveys over time, discussing attitudes to suicide before completing Mental Health First Aid’s Conversations Around Suicide module.

“The idea of Mental Health First Aid is to educate the community about how best to respond to mental health and in particular Conversations about Suicide is knowing how best to respond to suicidality,” Mental Health First Aid instructor Damien Burke said.

“Being in Singleton, obviously an area not nearly as dense as somewhere like CBD Sydney, so an area like Singleton, it can be seen to have some notions of isolation, withdrawal or not knowing where appropriate services are to contact.

“Because the Men’s Sheds is such a foundation in the community across Australia, it’s a focal point where men can normalise that conversation around suicidality and mental health which is really important.”

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