Promoting social connectedness to support men’s mental health

Content type
Webinar
Event date

25 May 2022, 01:00PM to 02:00PM

Presenters

Brendan Quinn, Peter Torenbeek, Ian Zajac, Sean Martin

Partners
Location

Online

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This webinar was held on Wednesday, 25 May 2022.

Being socially connected is important for maintaining our mental health and wellbeing. A recent report from Ten to Men the Australian Longitudinal Study on Male Health, showed that men who were unemployed, single and/or living alone had lower levels of social support and less rewarding relationships. Understanding what supports social connectedness is important for the wellbeing of men and their families. This webinar will discuss current research on social connectedness and share implications for practice to support men’s mental health.

In particular, this webinar will:

  • Discuss Ten to Men’s research findings regarding social connectedness among adult Australian males, including certain groups who might experience less social connection and the role of community engagement in supporting wellbeing
  • Explore how practitioners can start conversations about social connectedness with men using a client-led process
  • Provide key insights from the Australian Men's Shed Association (AMSA) that support men’s mental health through facilitating community engagement and social supports.

This webinar will be of interest to organisations and practitioners working to engage men in mental health, family, relationship and community services.

This webinar builds on a Ten to Men research report: Social connectedness among Australian Males.

Audio transcript (edited)

SEAN MARTIN: Well, hello and welcome everybody to the next installed in our AFES webinar series. Today’s topic will be around promotion social connectedness to support men’s health. My name is Sean Martin, I'm the program lead here at the Ten to Men’s study. For those of you aren’t aware, the Ten to Men’s study is Australia’s longitudinal study of male health and wellbeing and well be talking about some of our research this afternoon.

Before we get too deep into proceedings, though, I’d just like to start by acknowledging that I'm speaking to you from the lands of the Kaurna people. I acknowledge the Kaurna people and their descendents as traditional owners of this land. I pay my respects to their elders, both past, present and emerging and invite you all to do the same from wherever you're joining us today.

So, as I mentioned, today’s topic today is around social connectedness and ways we can use that to improve men’s health. To do that we’ve pulled together a panel that encompasses people from research, clinical practice and the community. And in terms of just a general overview of what we’ll be covering today, we'll start with the whats and wheres of social connectedness and why we think it’s particularly important. We'll then move on to talk about some strategies to better engage men who may be socially disconnected. And then we want to finish off by talking about the impact and the implications of social connectedness for future research and clinical practice.

Mostly importantly, from our point of view we'll also finish with a Q & A session for about 15 or 20 minutes where we want to hear from you, our audience members, for questions you might have. So, I'll now introduce our panel today. I'm going to start with Dr Brendan Quinn. Brendan is a research fellow here at AFES and a colleague of mine in the Ten to Men’s study. So, welcome to you, Brendan.

BRENDAN QUINN: Thanks, Sean.

SEAN MARTIN: Dr Ian Zajac is a friend and colleague of some 15 years. But he also, particularly for today, has some expertise around men’s health research, particularly around male type depression. He also wears another hat as a clinical psychologist, operating his own practice at MensPsych psychology service out of Adelaide. So, welcome to you, Ian.

IAN ZAJAC: Thanks, Sean.

SEAN MARTIN: Finally, we’re very happy today to have with us a representative from the Men’s Shed Associations of Australia, Peter Torenbeek. Peter is the president of the Cessnock Men’s Shed Association, but he’s also someone who I'm reliably told is very well known in Cessnock. He started a career in baking and since retirement has dedicated his time to volunteering across disability, senior sector and aged care sectors as well. So, welcome to you today, Peter.

PETER TORENBEEK: Good afternoon, Sean, and thank you.

SEAN MARTIN: Great to have you. Also, I should thank all of you, our audience today, for joining us today for today’s conversations. So, let’s get to the meat and potatoes of today’s chosen topics. I thought we’d start off by talking about, well, what do we mean when we talk about social connectedness and why we think being socially connected is so important. So, Brendan, can I start out with you, mate? Can you start off by talking to us about how you define social connectedness in your recent Ten to Men’s report and take us through some of the main findings from that work?

BRENDAN QUINN: Sure thing. Thank you, Sean. Before I jump into that, I should briefly mention that the entire Ten to Men’s report is available on the Ten to Men’s website and as a handout for this webinar. So, if it seems like we’re rushing through the findings, or if you just want some more information the report is easily available through both of those avenues. I also need to note that the data that we collected for the Ten to Men’s study that we'll be talking about today was collected before COVID, so this just needs to be considered when we’re chatting today with regard to interpretation of our findings on social connectedness.

But, firstly, reflecting on how we conceptualise social connectedness for the report, we define this overarching theme as comprising three core domains. The first of those was self-perceived social support, which relates to someone’s subjective or personal beliefs about the availability or accessibility of tangible emotional and positive social interactions in support systems and networks. The second was attachment relationships which refers to the number and the quality of the connections that we have with our family members and our friends and the people that we live and work with and interact with regularly.

The third is community integration, which relates to the extent that we’re involved in our community, surprisingly enough. But, more specifically, this refers to our employment status and participation in various community-based activities such as religious communities, sporting teams, volunteering and various hobby groups as well.

Just to touch briefly on why social connectedness is important. It’s generally speaking, because it’s good for us. It’s good for our health and our wellbeing and for preventing negative health outcomes. For example, having low levels of social connectedness has been associated with the development of various issues such as cardiovascular disease, obesity and sleep problems. In terms of mental health and risk behaviours, low levels of social connectedness have been associated with the experience of depressive symptoms, harmful use of alcohol and other substances, personality disorder and also suicidality.

It’s good that we’re focusing today’s discussion on Aussie males, because men can be less socially connected than women. For example, research has pointed to high levels of loneliness among Aussie men compared to women. And women are sometimes more integrated in the community. For example, they're sometimes more likely to volunteer than men. In terms of some of our main findings that came out of the report, they pointed to certain sub-groups of Aussie males who are possibly more socially disconnected than others. For example, we found that those with lower levels of self-perceived social support were more likely to be older. So, we have to be mindful of the possibility of reduced social connectedness as we age. But they're also more likely to be unemployed, to be living in more remote areas of the country, to live alone, to identify as non-heterosexual and to be single fathers.

It’s worth noting that these groups also tended to have lower levels of relationship satisfaction as well. Important that we also found that men who are classified as having some sort of functional difficulty and/or disability were also more likely to be less socially connected than those without difficulty or disability. For example, they were less likely to be employed and they had significantly fewer close friends and relatives on average than men without functional difficulty or disability. Briefly, we also found that certain life events might affect our feelings of social support. For example, experiencing difficulty finding a job in the past year, leaving home for the first time and recently experiencing serious conflict with a family member, were all related to having lower feelings of social support.

But in terms of some positive take-home messages, we did find that both volunteering and involvement in sport or hobby clubs increased levels of both self-perceived social support and personal wellbeing. So, that’s that community integration element there. And, interestingly enough, but also probably not too surprising when I think about people like my dad and his mates and my mates, rate of involvement in volunteering tended to increase with age. Whereas we saw the opposite with involvement in community-based sports and hobby groups, which tended to decrease with age.

So, that’s a rundown of the main findings for you, Sean.

SEAN MARTIN: That's great. Thank you, Brendan. That’s a snapshot of some very detailed and really important work. So, thank you for that. Ian, if I can shift over to you. Just the sort of things and issues that Brendan’s raising, does that resonate with you on what you see in your clinical practice?

IAN ZAJAC: Yeah, absolutely. I would say at the top level a lot of what comes out of that report is certainly reflected in the clientele that come into a clinical setting. And I'll mostly today talk about my views from that perspective of client-focused work in the mental health context. Of course, there’s nuances between individuals in terms of pathways to disconnection and also the extent to which that’s impacting on their mental health. The way I kind of view it, when it comes into practice, is that while social disconnection and mental health are strongly linked, the nature of the link varies a lot.

And you can have disconnection occurring as a result of a mental health disorder. Certainly as symptoms of that disorder worsen, if you think about something like depression, where motivation to engage is reduced or even social anxiety disorders where when they're really heavy and they're quite profound in terms of the symptom profile, people naturally disengage from both one on one conversations with people, but also community type settings. But disconnection, another space that I see it in the clinic is that it occurs as a result of life change. And, usually in an acute context or an acute period of time where there’s rapid change in a life, people can often find themselves in a position where they're disconnected.

Usually I see this quite often in a context of family changes. So, where there’s a separation, for example, a key source of connection is the family unit and the connections to that unit. And when an individual – and in this, when I work with men – when that separation occurs and particularly when they move into separate housing and the parenting becomes different, then what I often find is there’s a whole lot of time that guys have, that they didn't have before. And I think it is in that space that they start to realise “I'm not really doing anything here. I'm sitting down watching TV” or whatever else. So, there’s this threat of disconnection that’s there as a result or as one of the complications sort of a breakdown.

I also think that disconnection itself, and I think with the Ten to Men, there was the bidirectional sort of pathway. If you are disconnected for other reasons, your mental health does decline as a result of it. It may not necessarily be as strong directionally as the other way, but – You see this, for example, in people with naturally introverted traits. If they just find that they like their own time more, they may be less connected than otherwise. And, also, neurodiverging clients. So, autistic clients in particular, who may not necessarily desire connectedness or be necessarily highly skilled in how to do that in the neurotypical way, then you can have a symptom burden that comes on down the track.

So, it's fairly diverse, I guess, and even physical and other disabilities impact on that connectedness. So, when a client comes in, you're thinking about all these factors of what’s going on. They generally don't come in with a view that, “Hey, I'm socially disconnected. What are we going to do about it?” but from a theoretical and case formulation perspective, we’re thinking about these pathways in terms of what’s going on.

SEAN MARTIN: That’s great. And I think some of those issues that you raised are a perfect segueway to our final guest today, Peter. Peter, from a Shedder's perspective, is your sense that many of the men who are joining your groups are looking to increase their social connectedness?

PETER TORENBEEK: Thanks, Sean. Without a doubt that’s the case. We’re here in the Hunter Valley in New South Wales and we’re not that far away from the headquarters of the Australian Men’s Shed Association that’s based in Newcastle. And the mains of AMSA, those aims include a number of things, but a couple of them is that Sheds need to address mental health issues and also to relieve social isolation. It’s been proved, as Brendan said earlier, that social isolation is a key and a contributing key to poor health and wellbeing for retired men, which is what the base of my membership is. And Men’s Shed certainly provide a space, a place for men to come in and connect and find their purpose in a relaxed and very interesting environment for many of them.

It’s quite noticeable that opportunities to meet people, new people, as we get older it gradually declines. But Sheds can fill that gap. So, men from all walks of life can build very strong bonds within the Shed and many men would not have crossed paths some of the other men had they not joined a Men’s Shed. They would've been completely non-alert to what happens in those areas. So, again, endorsing what Brendan said, staying socially connected is linked with lower rates of anxiety and depression. It prevents a loss of purpose in their lives and by coming to the Shed and doing things it actually does give them a higher level of self-esteem due to not only their own support, their own contribution, but also because it contributes into the community as well with what they do.

The other thing that’s perhaps often overlooked as an issue of poor health is loneliness. And there are so many men, from where we are, we’ve got a lot of outlying villages on the outskirts of Cessnock and there’s nothing there except residential areas and perhaps the odd club or pub. So, having nobody to speak to, or their wives want to get rid of them, perhaps, somewhere else. Fair enough, send them to the Men’s Shed. And that does relieve loneliness for a lot of the fellows. No doubt, from what has been said to me from some of the fellows who have joined and have spent time at our Shed, that it’s been a wonderful thing for them. It extends their social connections, it’s quite evident that that works for them as it works for us and the whole movement. No doubt about that.

SEAN MARTIN: That’s great, Peter. Thank you for that. And I should acknowledge too, the success story that is the Men’s Shed Association. Not just here now in Australia, but also globally. It essentially started as a grassroots organisation, has spread and is having impacts across the world. So, we’ve got a lot to be proud of here in Australia. And we thank you going for joining us today.

So, just want to shift gears now and move maybe more towards the clinical space and particular ways to engage socially disconnected men. Ian, if I can throw that to you. Can you give us a sense of the types of clients you see who have the highest levels of socially disconnection?

IAN ZAJAC: I was trying to think about this before the webinar today. Because as I said, most people don't come in and report disconnectedness as an issue necessarily. But I would estimate probably 50% or more are experiencing disconnection in some context. As Peter brought up, loneliness is a factor. That becomes a real driving factor of mental health burden over aging particularly as people disconnect from networks. But I also think that you can be connected and lonely. So, connected on face value. And I think in the clinic this is what we sometimes see. So, you can have people come in who have a network of connectedness, but there’s no depth to it or they don't get from that connectedness what they necessarily want.

You'll often see this in guys who come in who are busy with work, busy with family, busy with various responsibilities and they see a lot of people and on face value you would say they're connected, but at a depth level they're actually not getting much out of the connectedness experience in terms of what they're seeking. So, I see people who come in who are seemingly well connected, but aren't. But I'll also see people who come in that are very disconnected. And that can be for a whole range of reasons. It’s either because they've withdrawn because they've struggled to make friendships, because they struggle to maintain friendships. Because they have relatively toxic environments that they may be in. So, if you're in, for want of a better word, dysfunctional environment or dysfunctional family, then you're not necessarily getting much return on your connectedness there.

But, also, if we look at clientele who come in with substance use disorders then the connectedness that they have is often not very good either and it’s part of a maintaining problem in terms of that connected environment. The type of clientele I see is so diverse that probably the two main categories are –Sorry, three, would be following a life event like a separation or a workplace change, subsequent disconnection from networks they had, people who are too busy for valuable connection or people who are really quite isolated in a loneliness context. And then it’s trying to flesh out how they got where they're at and where do we go from there.

SEAN MARTIN: Great. Just to follow up on that point. A large portion of our audience today will be either clinicians or practitioners. So, how do you go about starting conversations around these issues of social support and engagement with the men when you think it’s necessary?

IAN ZAJAC: From my stance as a clinician, I'm always looking at factors that are contributing to what’s going on that the client may not necessarily be themselves aware of. And in that context, when a client comes in and they're talking about a particular symptom burden, then flipping that conversation to social connectedness takes some finesse. So, it’s not necessarily something that they would naturally drive into a conversation, but we’re always looking at opportunities to do that. And there’s a whole range of, I guess, Socratic questioning styles that you can use to just sort of encourage some internal thinking around that space. And often I'll say to people who are quite busy, they may be in a relationship, they may be parenting, but they may be feeling disconnected.

One of the questions that we start to ponder is something along the lines of “Who are you outside of being a dad, a partner and an employee?” And most guys will say, “I don't know. I don't know what we’re talking about here.” But it creates a space where you can start discussing the quality of relationships that they have, the frequency of contact that they're having, what’s been disrupted in that space, or not disrupted, and where they might want to go with that. Whenever you get the opportunity to reflect on connectedness, my goal is to do so. So, if I hear about someone who’s spending a lot of time on their own, I might reflect that it sounds like they're spending lots of time on their own, what’s that like for them. We’re pointing out that isolation and loneliness in that context may be a driver of what’s going on.

So, it takes some finesse, but I think the key part is that as a practitioner or anyone even in Men’s Shed or elsewhere, you need to go into it purposefully. Even though the person you're talking to may not have registered that as a factor in terms of what’s going on.

SEAN MARTIN: That’s some amazing insights and I can only imagine that will be of use to those who are joining us today. And speaking of those of us who are joining today, just a reminder, if you do have questions through the course of these discussions, just to throw them into the chat. I can already see some live questions are popping up. That’s great, we'll get to them in the Q & A section shortly.

Peter, if we just shift to the community setting now. Do you feel that many of the men who initially join up to your organisations are struggling to connect with others? And, the second part to that is what are some of the strategies you employ to help them overcome those barriers and that resistance to connection?

PETER TORENBEEK: Sean, certainly, we've got a diversity of membership and different styles of fellows from different areas. How do we maintain our membership? Well, word of mouth is the easiest way for people to join the Men’s Shed. Rumours, they read about it in the paper or in the media. Often we get referrals from Centrelink. Job agencies and GPs make referrals suggesting to the men that it would be a good place to come in and join the Shed and perhaps get something out of it. Often the hardest part for members who may be struggling a little bit in their life, the hardest part is for them to walk through the front gate. We’ve got an acre of ground at our Shed. It covers a whole range of activities and it can be rather scary for somebody to get to that gate and then see so much activity going on and they've got to walk through that gate and make contact with somebody and anticipating perhaps joining.

What I try to do, particularly if they ring beforehand, is to ask the man if he’d like to come in on a day that we’re not open. So I can walk around with him in the quiet time. And often these fellows are feeling pretty down and struggling a little bit. If they can come in on a day where there’s nobody there I can show them around and they can see everything they like, which breaks the ice. It makes it a lot easier for them to come in the next day or so, when the Shed’s open, and they can settle in and go through the routine.

As Ian said, the contact that you have with them has got to be relaxed and friendly and while our gate’s always open, showing them around, giving them a tour, showing them the activities that are going on, makes them more relaxed. We do have a five minute video that we show to them as well as one of the resources that we use. There’s an induction video, but it does cover more than induction. It does cover things about safety, interactions, expectations, general procedures that you’d normally have at a Shed. And that most certainly puts them at ease and gives them a certain level of comfort.

We're all volunteers at the Men’s Shed. There’s nobody paid. So, they understand that. And we also emphasise and don't expect to put too much on them from day 1. But we do emphasise that they've got to choose what they’d like to do when they come to our Shed. To give you an example, we’ve got two woodworking sheds. We’ve got a metalworking shed, we have a recycling project with old air-conditioners. We’ve got a vegetable garden growing veggies for the men, we’ve got a native plant nursery that we sell products commercially. But we also have a coffee club and a table or two where you just sit down and have a chat. So, there’s plenty to do. But they've got to decide what to do about it. We don't push them into anything. We allow them to seek their little spot and perhaps a comfortable place for them to work.

Some Sheds have a buddy system as a resource to help the men settle in. A Shed Mate, as we all them. And that can be really, really helpful in a two-way street. Not only for the new chum, but also for the person that we’ve appointed as the Shed buddy, it gives them some interaction with the new member and gives them some confidence in talking and mixing and all that sort of stuff as well. There is always a range of manuals and health books and handouts, but the best strategy that we can possibly use for a new chum coming in is just to talk to others. It’s a trait that has been mentioned earlier that men sometimes don't do enough of, is just purely sitting down and talking.

And you'll find that there’s a common interest there between some of the men who have had that operation or that stent installed or they've had a depressive state or they've got some other illness that is like minded with somebody else at the Shed. And then they can find that they're not alone and they can talk about it openly with a great deal of confidence. It works for us and it proves – I've got over 100 members at the Shed. When they come in they'll just get lost in that one acre of ground at the various sheds and activities that we have. So, it’s not really that scary for anybody to do it. Because they're not all congregating in one area. It works for us.

SEAN MARTIN: Yeah, absolutely it does. We should acknowledge too that, community organisations such as yours, you're often at the forefront of work in this area and actually help to inform the research program and where we sit from Ten to Men. We’d like to continue to work with the Men’s Shed group to make sure that we can take learnings that you've got on the ground and also work together to make sure we can, for our future programs, continue to sort of refine our research programs in this space. So, thanks for that.

We are unfortunately rapidly racing through our discussion points today, but we did want to finish off today’s discussion amongst our panel members by talking about some of the impact and implications of this increasing amount of research and clinical work around social connectedness and the community work that Peter’s just alluded to. So, Brendan, in line with that, can you talk us through some of the implications that came out of your recent work with Ten to Men for practitioners?

BRENDAN QUINN: Sure. So, as we’ve talked about today, I've given it a relatively consistent finding throughout our report was that older Aussie men appeared particularly vulnerable to being socially disconnected. I mentioned this earlier, obviously all of us have talked about it. I think it’s really important to focus on addressing this. As we all know, because we’re lucky enough to have Peter chat with us today, services like Men’s Shed can help address it. But I think encouraging men to take up opportunities for physical activity and other types of social engagement in context that might be accessible or incidental might be a feasible and low threshold means of enhancing social connectedness among this group. For example, promoting sports or exercise, participation in workplace environments, if available and if applicable.

One important thing to note is that interventions to improve social connectedness don't have to be intensive, in person experiences. For example, one recent study showed that a semi-regular Zoom intervention helped reduced loneliness and depression among both older males and females. And given what many of us have gone through over the last couple of years or more, it’s important to acknowledge how beneficial remote contact can be for social purposes.

Just to touch on an area that I'm passionate about and I think that’s important is acknowledging the need to improve social connectedness among men who have functional difficulty and/disability. Again, this might include access to digital platforms and social media and other online mechanisms, but community participation among this group can be aided with improved access to assistive technology and support. And also transport. But also improving opportunities for people with difficulty or disability to enter the workforce and remain in the workforce, including creating roles and tasks within organisations and businesses that suit people with different capabilities.

Lastly, I just think that many men, as we’ve touched on today, still experience apprehension is accessing services or official systems for low social connectedness and other health issues. So, it’s about continuing to combat the stigma and the low health literacy associated with that and being mindful about the interaction that men have with the healthcare system and social support systems and the barriers that they may face in doing that.

SEAN MARTIN: Thanks, Brendan. I think that’s a really good insight for our audience today. And, again, I encourage them all to download your report and read into some of that detail that you've raised. Unfortunately, given the limits of time we have may not be able to touch on it all, but it’s certainly an area that we'll continue to focus on. So, thank you for your efforts in that space.

Ian, can I just ask you, one thing that seems to be coming through in the live chat is this issue of gender for practitioners and whether or not, in your experiences, men prefer men or women. Do you have a take on that?

IAN ZAJAC: Yeah. It’s a question that’s been floated around even in academic circles for quite some time. And, for the most part, probably 70 to 80% of guys don't have a preference when it comes to gender of the practitioner and around sort of 10 to 20 either way may prefer male and some prefer female. You can also get variability within an individual, which is that depending on what the pressing issue is, they might not want to speak to a female or a male, versus other issues where there’s no concern around that. So, I think that if you are a clinician or a healthcare worker or a mate or someone at Men’s Shed or at a sporting club, it really doesn't matter the gender dynamic of the interaction. What matters is that you approach it from a gender-informed lens, I guess.

One of the things I note with guys is the misconception that men don't like to talk. And I call it a misconception, because it’s very much how you talk and it’s very much where you talk. I think Peter picked up on some of that before in terms of allowing guys to choose areas, tasks, people and creating environments that fit individuals. In the clinical context it’s the same sort of thing in terms of creating a space that men are comfortable with. And if you're driving direct questioning, hard questioning, specific questioning and you're not reflecting and you're not listening well, then men will just disengage from the conversation.

So, gender-informed approach is really just thinking about what’s the nature of this individual that I'm talking to. Can we talk indirectly about issues that I might think are coming up, like social connectedness, for example? And I sort of mentioned a couple of ways that you can indirectly throw in some conversation around that. But, specifically, if there’s clinicians that are concerned that they're not a fit for the client, then I would say your client either wouldn't have come or won't come back. Then you'll know. But, for the most part, we shouldn't go into interactions concerned that there’s a gender mismatch.

SEAN MARTIN: That is great, Ian. And I know that that is an issue that I can already see is regularly coming up and I think there’s some great insights into how to best approach those. Another issue that’s often come up is this issue of how we deal with culturally diverse people or people from rural or regional areas. So, perhaps, to Peter and Ian, is there any ways – Ian, to you first – is there any differences in the ways that you work with men from culturally and linguistically diverse backgrounds?

IAN ZAJAC: I guess the way is always a client-informed way. And if I'm not sure on the cultural background of an individual and how it impacts connectedness – You know, we always enter conversations around that. I've been working with someone who’s come over from the Middle East over the last four or five years and they're very well connected, but their quality of social connectedness isn't great. But I'm seeking to understand the kind of cultural dynamic that sits behind that in order to help this individual flesh out ways forward.

So, I think it’s never a one-size-fits-all and I think that’s both within a culture, but also across cultures. And I think having that flexibility to kind of flesh out what’s going on for the individual, what are the contextual and environmental and cultural factors that are impacting them, it’s very much a process of shared discovery. The client probably actually hasn't thought about it extensively through those different lenses and neither has the clinician. But I've never had an experience where I'm actively trying to learn about these things from a client, where that’s been met with a stone wall. These guys are happy to talk about it.

So, if you're not particularly skilled in working with a particular cultural group or a particular orientation elsewhere, then ask. Learn. The client knows that best and they're going to give you the info that you want if you're genuinely open and willing to learn about that. I would say for the rural and other factors, it’s the same. What is the contextual environmental issues that that person faces. And how is that interacting with the disconnectedness.

I think that’s an opportunity to throw to Peter, because how do groups like Men’s Shed feed into, say, rural and remote areas and do they.

SEAN MARTIN: Peter, over to you.

PETER TORENBEEK: I can certainly comment on that. Because we’re a regional city of about 60,000 people and, as I mentioned earlier, there are a lot of outlying villages around as well. The majority of the residents are local and they've come from a coal mining background or an associated sort of an industry, they're blue collar workers, they're tradies. Or they've got a rural background, as you mentioned. And that’s grape growing, it’s grazing, up the valley further it’s the horse industry. It’s interesting that a lot of those fellows have worked with a team or they've had workmates in their life. So, leaving that can be a real bummer for them and they do find, suddenly, they need to do something else. By coming to the Shed, they fall right into that category.

And we, quite frankly, have a mix of people with indigenous backgrounds, we’ve got others who come from a disadvantaged socioeconomic group. We certainly have a number of men who are disabled or physically challenged. And we do have a mix of nationalities. But, surprise, surprise, once they're there and once they get into the place, they get on extremely well together. I know, Ian, I'm at grassroots level here in some respects, and seeing a lot of guys from all those sort of categories just getting on famously together. It’s remarkable.

I have to say we limit the amount of red tape, we limit the amount of rules and regulations, we don't insist on what they do. We’ve got tools and materials all around the place, but the saying is, probably the best tool that we have in the Shed is the kettle. A cup of tea. It’s the coffeepot that’s bubbling away all the time. And the guys can come to that and sit around and talk. We don't say, “You've got to work from 9 to 5” or from whatever the time might be. They just do what they like and when they like. And while we do have a morning tea break and lunch break, it’s pretty casual and social and enjoyable. And joy is the key.

SEAN MARTIN: That’s a great point, Peter. Just to echo what I said previously, within the research space I think we have a lot to learn from the approach that the [Shedders] take. Ian, if I can just throw to you. A lot of the conversations in this space seems to be around online programs and online interventions. So, how do you see the role of those programs in supporting social connectedness? Are they just as good? Are there any kind of particular programs or resources you’d recommend in this space?

IAN ZAJAC: I don't have any particular recommendation around programs or resources. I think social connectedness is important and I think there’s often been question marks around whether connecting socially pre-COVID, usually via social media and gaming platforms, whether that was a healthy form of connectedness. And I think we’ve all had the opportunity to experience that actually online connection is a really valuable thing when it’s used and it’s fit for purpose. So, social connectedness in the online format is actually, for me, nothing that I would consider to be problematic. I think that there are challenges within that context.

So, if you are someone who moves towards hiding in a online platform and connectedness space as opposed to meeting people face-to-face, that might be problematic. But, for a lot of people, the online space is very natural. It’s very easy to interact with and there’s a return on that when you make good connections with people. In terms of the programs, I think, again, it’s got to be something that’s fit to the person. If they're looking for a particular thing, you'll soon find whether it’s a fit or not, because this guy’s just going to disengage from it. But I think it’s not really around trying to get the match perfect the first time, it’s around repeating the process.

As Peter pointed out, when you have someone coming to Men’s Shed, you allow them to pick and choose where they go. And I think the same would be for any kind of online-based intervention or program or platform, we’re providing choice, we’re providing flexibility and we're allowing people to find their own feet in those spaces. And I think that’s the critical part, rather than forcing people down a particular path or into a particular activity.

SEAN MARTIN: Absolutely. And it’s great that those kind of complementary services are now available. Particularly, as you say, learning lessons from the last couple of years of the pandemic. Peter, we are unfortunately rapidly running out of time in our panel discussion. Perhaps if we can just finish with a couple of questions to you. So, obviously something that you've been involved in for a long period of time, is there a change in the way that men engage with the Men’s Shed’s programs?

PETER TORENBEEK: I guess the clientele base is changing. Certainly, as the men get older and they're not there anymore, are we filling the void that they're leaving? I think the level of skills that our original – We’ve been there 16 years. The level of skills that we started with is disappearing. And what's coming from the younger generation, they don't have that same level of skill. They may be more computer literate to some degree, but basically that’s something that's going to be a major problem with the Shed movement as time goes on. Because it’s a practical thing right throughout Australia. Right throughout the world. Some of those hard-earned manual skills that a so valuable just aren't there anymore.

The older blokes try and teach some of the younger blokes. They're 70, by the way, the younger blokes. Try to impart their information down the line a piece and certainly some of the guys pick up on it quickly and love learning how to use a chisel or do some woodturning or learn how to weld or whatever the case might be. So, that’s one of the things that we’re noticing particularly. Whatever happens at the Shed and whatever transpires, we always like the guys to leave the Shed each day when they go with something that they've picked up on. Whether it’s the newsletter or whether it’s a health handout or a booklet of some kind. Whether it’s a new friendship, whether it’s some information about some of the other members that they didn't know about before.

We find that that’s valuable, that they've gone out, they've come in on a high and they've left on a high as well by learning something new. That's one of the things that we try to do.

SEAN MARTIN: That’s great. I think it’s really important in this discussion that we finish on a high note and Men’s Shed provides us plenty of those. To the last question, what is the secret to success of the [Shedders’] approach? If we were to ask you to distil it into a two, three minute answer, is there something you think we can take away today that you think is essential to increasing social connectedness?

PETER TORENBEEK: Well, there is a slogan that the Shed uses. Maybe this might be the answer and that slogan is, “Men work shoulder to shoulder at the Men’s Shed.” And if you think about that, they'll come in cold, they'll go to their little areas, they'll get into it and they're working away shoulder to shoulder with that level of enjoyment. Simple as that.

SEAN MARTIN: Beautiful. Beautiful. All right, I think that’s a great note to end for our panel discussion. As I alluded to earlier, a very exciting part for us is the Q & A with our audience. I've been able to check as those questions are streaming in, there are lots of those. Unfortunately, we're a little bit limited for time, but we will try to get to as many of them as we can.

This is a question I will put to all of you, but it touches on what Peter just spoke about in terms of working shoulder to shoulder. As we are starting to emerge back to some sort of normality, one of the questions that we got from an audience member is what are some tips for identifying men who may physically have a lot of people around them, but aren't really getting that level of social connectedness right? Getting that quality of social connectedness. So, this is a question to all our panel members today. So, feel free to jump in at your leisure.

PETER TORENBEEK: Well, if it happens at the Shed we give them a job. I've just sprouted off earlier that we don't allocate jobs to anybody at our place, however if there is somebody in that scenario, if they're feeling a bit of a shag on a rock, we'll say, “Ben, come over here. How about giving us a hand with this?” And then they'll rally and they'll enjoy themselves. I guess it’s a matter of noticing and exercising that activity.

STUDENT: Great. Ian, do you have any kind of insights in terms of clinical practice. And, obviously, this is a relatively new phenomenon, but people may be in urban regions surrounded by millions of people yet still feeling that kind of contradictory disconnection from real quality kind of connectedness.

IAN ZAJAC: Yeah. I think it is an issue. And it goes back to that kind of idea of – So, is quality social connectedness represented by the quantity of connections, or is it represented by the quality within those? And, my view was usually the latter. Sometimes I've come back to really thinking about, at an individual client level, what do they value in terms of just living generally. What sorts of values does a person hold?

Recently, I was working with someone who valued justice, fairness and they found themselves in a circle of friends that didn't really hold the same values. They were quite defamatory about particular groups of people, the way they talked about certain things was not a fit to the individual. And we gradually came back to this notion over time around this individual is well connected, they're succeeding in life, they've got a good family, but there’s something missing. And we spent a few sessions actually unpacking what would be in a quality connection, what would be in a quality friendship. Are the ones that you currently have fitting the criteria that you want? And, for the most part, the answers were no.

So, it’s really about thinking what – And I often talk about return on investment with clients, because you're investing time, you're investing energy, you're investing an attempt at connectedness into other people. What is your return? Obviously we want a positive return and if that’s missing then what are we going to do about it? How do we go about it? Do we approach the current connections and friendships in a different way or do we find new ones. And that’s another whole challenge, but sometimes the conversation swings that way.

So, I would say that in the end you just get a sense of a mismatch almost, in terms of what the person wants in their life and the qualities and the values that they hold and desire and what they're actually living. So, we’re thinking mostly in that context around the contextual factors that are driving behaviours or that are not driving behaviours.

SEAN MARTIN: It’s obviously a new and emerging space, all these areas. It’s something that obviously we are going to start to pay more attention as we go along. If I can put my researcher hat back on for a little while, this is another question that’s come from our audience to everyone, but it’s around evaluation. A lot of these programs that we’ve spoken about are getting an increased amount of attention both from government and from research groups. So, what are the outcome measurements we’re recommending or do we have any recommendations for evaluating success on whether these programs, in the community and elsewhere, are contributing to improved social connectedness. So, again, open to all. If you have some thoughts on that, it would be great to hear them.

I guess the question is, really, what’s our indicator of success for these programs and how we’re going to benchmark some of these programs as more and more are emerging against each other.

IAN ZAJAC: I think it’s variable. You could launch a program that’s designed to reduce mental health burden, for example. And you would pick mental health related outcomes in that context and you may not see much of a change or you might see a fragment of change. And that's because there’s a whole range of other outcomes that are important. If I was looking generally at your general male population in terms of how these programs are working, I would be thinking more measures around general wellbeing, quality of life, perception of quality of social connectedness. Because all of those things are going to change in a kind of relational way.

And I think it’s about getting a sense of what’s the breadth of change that we see in the program, rather than trying to single out a particular factor. Although, the complication there in the research space is if you're doing clinical interventions you should really have one or two primary outcomes. And I think that’s the bit of the trap in terms of evaluating these programs. But I think we can throw out a range of factors that we think are going to move in line with someone’s engagement in a program or a service if we’re evaluating it, and cast the net wide, learn the ingredients that are working and the things that are changing and then narrow it down as develop new programs that are designed to tackle a particular factor or a particular area. In which case we would narrow it down outcomes related to that intervention.

SEAN MARTIN: Great point, Ian. Peter, can I ask you, I know part of the magic with the [Shedders] was it works because it works. But, clearly, as they become more and more successful, both nationally and internationally, what's the kind of Shed association approach to engaging with researchers, with government, to sort of start to get engaged in these evaluation processes?

PETER TORENBEEK: We're certainly open to that. AMSA, the Australian Men’s Shed Association is certainly partners, not only with this organisation that we’re in today, but also with a number of other government and semi-government organisations and widely are open to that sort of an influence. We are at that high level, that AMSA level, they're federally funded to maintain the interaction with the Sheds that are throughout Australia. I might add, as you've mentioned, they're overseas as well extensively now. When we first started we started with eight people. Eventually there were 100 Sheds in the area. Suddenly throughout Australia there’s 300. All of a sudden there’s 1,000. I guess by that you can indicate that, certainly, there is a level of success in the Men’s Shed movement throughout Australia and overseas where it is also extended.

We make the statement, which is a bit frivolous, that there are more Men’s Sheds in Australia now than there are McDonalds outlets. While that is frivolous, it bears some measure of indicating the success of how it’s been going through the 25 or so years that it’s been running. That’s what I can measure.

SEAN MARTIN: That sounds pretty successful to me. Thank you, Peter. Brendan, Ian, do you have anything else to add? Brendan, did you have any thoughts on that from an outcomes perspective, having looks to Ten to Men data, for example?

BRENDAN QUINN: I agree with a lot of the things that you said, Ian. I think there’s so many different mental health and wellbeing outcomes that you can look at. And it can sort of depend on what the aim or objective or objectives of the initiative is. One that we looked at briefly for when we were writing this report was the Australia campaign Neighbour Day, where the intention of that was to enhance community involvement and social connectedness among the general community. Back in 2019 they did surveys with 400 hosts of neighbourhood events. And they had a look at neighbourhood identification which they found was significantly increased among those people who did participate.

But, for me, one of the key outcomes would be repeat participation. It’s fair enough to have people rock up for one or two events, but are they actually still there six months later, a year later, however long you want to have a look at it. So, I think, for me, that would be one of the key outcomes.

SEAN MARTIN: That’s great. And just as a technical note, we are trying to get Peter’s audio back. I hope you can hear us, because a lot of the questions that we are getting through are about the Men’s Shed program. So, hopefully, at least from today, Peter, you do see an uptick in your membership. Ian and Brendan, one of the regular questions we’re getting here too is around FIFO workers. So, obviously that’s a relatively new paradigm. Ian, from your experiences, have you found that men become socially disconnected from both their friends and even their family through this kind of work approach?

IAN ZAJAC: It can be a real challenge for some of these guys and, I suspect, females who are doing FIFO as well. My brother-in-law is FIFO into the top of WA and my personal conversations with him are almost that there’s a me that’s there and there’s a me that’s here. You have a whole range of connectedness that occurs on site. The guys tend to swing in and out o the same shifts. They'll often catch up after a shift, if it’s a dry site, somewhere for a beer and whatever else. Then come back to normality, as we’d probably frame it, and you're kind of left to pick up a whole range of pieces.

One of the things I've noticed in seeing quite a few FIFOs is it can depend on the swings. So, I've seen people who would do as much as a 10-and-6. You're away for 10 weeks, you're back for six, to as little as a 2-and-2. And I think the longer that you're away the more difficult it is to both come back and integrate into your existing connected environment, but also to fit everything in. And I think that’s one of the challenges. Because, if you're, say, in a family environment with kids, you're coming back into a family and you're reconnecting there, and you're trying to fit all of this other stuff in maybe one weekend, one and a half weekends. So, it becomes incredibly challenging.

It is explained as a bit like a pressure cooker at times. Because you're either pressured when you're there and you're pressured here both by time and demand and it does become really challenging to balance all of the responsibilities and your own wellbeing in the context of being connected with valuable people.

SEAN MARTIN: I think it’s just another example of things we’re sort of learning on the fly and how we as researchers and clinicians need to sort of catch up to this space.

IAN ZAJAC: Yeah.

SEAN MARTIN: I feel every time we have these kind of conversations we only just scratch the surface and we run short of time. We’ve spoken a lot about older men in particular, but, of course, as society changed we have a lot more stay-at-home dads. So, how do we support expecting, new or experienced dads? They also experience disconnected and isolation and perhaps even heightened, given some of the other support structures that exist for new and expecting mothers. Does anyone have any insights onto that? Ian, if we can start with you?

IAN ZAJAC: Yeah, sure. I think it’s a very disruptive time for new dads as well, in terms of welcoming a new baby. And the impact of that both on factors like relational dynamics within family dynamics, and also the usual way of life before the baby is quite profound. I think one of the challenges is what we might think it’s like once we’ve had a child is never what it is actually like. There’s some real challenges that can come along with that phase for a lot of people. So, it can be really disruptive and it can have a massive impact on the health of new dads in this context.

And I think what’s important is thinking about the importance of trying to maintain, obviously within limitations, the way that you did things before. So, that’s catching up with friends when possible. Obviously the frequency of that’s probably going to change. Finding ways to integrate your family into catch-ups with other friends is important. But as much as possible trying to not just lose the previous version of you and enter this new phase as a different person. It’s like trying to integrate these factors whilst being mindful of the strain of a new baby, both on you, on your partner and on the dynamics that you're within. It’s incredibly challenging.

SEAN MARTIN: Thank you, Ian. It really is. I can speak from experience there. Brendan, I know we’ve briefly touched on this on the Ten to Men report. Have you got any insights there for fathers? At that particular point in time.

BRENDAN QUINN: We don't have anything for new fathers. The one finding that we did have was that single fathers had a greater likelihood of having low levels of self-perceived social support compared to non-single fathers.

SEAN MARTIN: That’s good enough. I think we'll come back to you a little later. Another question we had was from a lot of our practitioner audience around what to do when Men’s Sheds isn't available. I mean, we’ve spoken a lot today about Men’s Sheds, and quiet rightly so. But, Ian, do you have any kind of suggestions of what we do when a program like a Men’s Shed isn't available?

IAN ZAJAC: Google is your friend. I never thought that I would spend sessions with clients on the internet finding options. But I think it’s completely necessary, because the programs that are available are so variable in terms of where you're located, how well they're funded, whether there’s spaces available and those sorts of factors. So, Men’s Sheds is awesome in the sense that everyone knows about it and it is everywhere, but I think there’s a big challenge outside of that demographic to have a similar structure that is a go-to for younger males. So, I'm as lost as everybody else in this space, from referral options.

But, what I usually do is think about what do they like doing, what has this person previously enjoyed doing. And we jump online, we look at either sporting clubs in the area, we might look at other kind of volunteering options that exist. If I see someone who likes to game and they're fairly disconnected, in the past we’ve found gaming cafes where you can go on a social night and do things. So, I don't know that we always need to find a program as such, but what we’re trying to do is facilitate a client to move towards an option. And they will go there and it may not fit and they'll come back and we'll find something else. But, yeah, I'm as lost for referral pathways as others. But my approach is really just help the person out, help the person flesh out what options are out there and what we might try.

SEAN MARTIN: Great point. And with those options, Peter, are there any learnings we can take from the Men’s Sheds groups that can flow onto those options, hopefully more of which will become available?

PETER TORENBEEK: Yes, it is a difficult answer. And I know that the age group for Men’s Sheds starts at 18. But it wouldn't be comfortable perhaps for a young man to come in, and yet we have had them. They've got to be comfortable in working around with the old blokes. On the other side of it there’s a lot of old fellows who don't want to get involved with the younger generation, because their miles apart as well. It is a difficult question, as Ian said, and hard sometimes to have somebody compatible to work with at a younger age.

We’ve just finished National Volunteer Week here in Australia and I know that shortly Men’s Health Week comes up. And while I can't actually remember what the theme for Men’s Health Week is, I believe it’s something around the area of support for men and boys. Now, I don't know what’s coming out of that. It’s coordinated by the Western Sydney University. And maybe there’s something on that side, for example, that might allude to what possibly might be around for the youth of this world.

STUDENT: Yeah, it’s a great point there. A great organisation, they're a very active come Men’s Health Week. So, would encourage everyone to keep an eye in that space. All right, just our final question today. Again, as we alluded to, we're speaking to Peter about Men’s Sheds and others often about older type men. But, of course, here at Ten to Men we’re interested in not just older men, we’re also interested in younger men and even boys. So, how do ensure that younger men sustain these social connections after leaving school? Or are there any kind of broader lessons to be learned from the research and the literature on that? Brendan, if I can throw to you from a Ten to Men perspective. Is there anything that our research is showing?

BRENDAN QUINN: Our research definitely showed different types of life events are more likely to occur and impact our levels of social connectedness or social support, depending on your age. For example, younger men, those aged between 18 to 24 were more likely to experience difficulty finding a job and leaving home for the first time. And those two experiences were more likely to have negative impacts on your levels of self-perceived social support as you got older. So, guys who are aged 25 to 34, they also experienced difficulty finding a job, but there were also issues with moving house and getting married for the first time.

Then, as you get older, the men were more likely to have serious conflict with family members. But the one experience that was consistent across every age was difficulty finding a job. But, as you get older there’s those more relational things like having the death of a family member and having a child or a family member leave home as well. But I’d just like to reiterate what Ian was saying before in terms of Google is your friend. Just anecdotally, I can't speak to the research here, but Meetup is an online platform that you can just enter whatever your interest is. So, it might be hiking, it might be painting, it might be drinking, whatever else. And you can find groups in your local area that cater to those sorts of interests and that you can hopefully meet up with.

SEAN MARTIN: It’s a great point. There really are a plethora of particularly online options available to both younger men and older men. I mean, we were talking before about fathering. There was a program, I think, called SMS4dads, which is targeted specifically at new dads and that potential to lose those social connections. So, it’s a thriving scene and hopefully as researchers and clinicians and people in community organisations we can continue to contribute to those.

Ian, just to throw to you. Brendan spoke about these kind of life course issues that younger men will sort of transition through. Do you have some sort of experiences in that space?

IAN ZAJAC: Yeah, look, I think it is a challenging time. Especially, you come from a school system that’s you're seeing the same people eight hours a day, five days a week. It’s arguably a little more of a relaxed environment than the workplace might be for some people. So, the quality of friendships that you have in that environment are probably not necessarily what you will go into, particularly in the workplace. But, if you find yourself not in a workplace or not studying or not engaging in some kind of follow-on activity, then there’s a whole lot of time that’s created and you don't necessarily know what to do with it. And I think time is a challenge to manage and particularly as your friends move on and particularly after school, the whole dynamic’s changed. So, there is a risk of becoming more disconnected in that space.

I think if you enter a good workplace or if you go to uni and join a social club, one of their focused activity clubs, there are ways of maintaining connectedness. But I think it’s so variable for everyone that there’s no one approach to resolve challenges. I think what people need to look out for is what’s going on with an individual at any age. And Brendan touched on life changes as a key driver of risk of disconnection. And the signs of that in an individual are probably more irritability, more time spent alone, withdrawing from connections like family that they might otherwise have been more connected with. So, we need to be pretty mindful of the indicators of a decline in health and wellbeing in an individual. And then we can go into that space.

If you're close enough with the person you might have some ideas around whether this is related to social connectedness or not. But it’s really around finding the indicators and implementing options of what needs to be done once they're there. Because some people float through these changes quite well and other people will struggle. And I'm guessing the change thing is an issue in the space as well, with guys entering retirement.

SEAN MARTIN: Peter, do you similar have life exchange issues with life courses with your Men’s Shed members?

PETER TORENBEEK: Could you repeat that, I'm sorry, Sean.

SEAN MARTIN: Yeah. So, often the Shedders, they're going through changes in their life stage. Is that something that you experience with the Shed associations?

PETER TORENBEEK: Not a great deal. Certainly, we get a lot of attendees who are unemployed and job opportunities around our regional city are limited. So, that can be a bit of a challenge to them. And the challenge for us to do anything about it except make them welcome, look after them and allow them to spend some time and not be too badly depressed about that situation. I guess that's the opportunity that we come to grips with.

And, on other matters that Ian was touching on. It would be remiss of me if I didn't mention for young people, and this is men and women, young boys and girls, that both of the service clubs, the Lions Club and Rotary Clubs do have young people’s organisations. And Apex Australia, which is the young people’s service club still exists throughout Australia in different areas, up to the age of 45. Those sort of organisations are still around and eager to get young people to come in and get involved for their own betterment, but also for the betterment of the community.

SEAN MARTIN: Yeah, it’s a really good point. We’ve spoken about some of the emerging sort of platforms for social connection, but, exactly right, there are these legacy institutions that are still around, still active and still important contributors in this space.

Sadly, that brings us to the end of our allotted time today. I want to thank, first of all, our panel members for joining us today. I really appreciate their input today and the conversations we’ve been able to have. I want to thank our audience members for joining us online. One thing that is a recurring problem in the men’s health space is once we start talking we generally run out of time. And, to that end, I know AFES are looking at opportunities to continue these conversations and the webinar series is part of that. Again, I encourage you to join up to their newsletters and various formats.

So, that’s really it for now. Thank you all. Thank you to our panel members. And we'll see you soon in the future. Ciao ciao.


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Related resources

  • Ten to Men 
    Ten to Men: The Australian Longitudinal Study on Male Health is a major national research project aimed at improving programs and policies for males in Australia. This web-page provides information about the study and research findings.
  • Australian Men’s Shed Association (AMSA) 
    AMSA is a large male-based community development organisation. This web-page provides information about their services and where to a local men’s shed.

Presenters

Research Fellow, Families, Society and Lifecourse program at AIFS

Dr Brendan Quinn is a public health Research fellow within AIFS’ Families, Society and Lifecourse program. He primarily works on Ten to Men: The Australian Longitudinal Study on Male Health; his team undertakes research to improve understanding of diverse issues impacting the health and wellbeing of males of all ages and backgrounds across the country, with the aim of informing evidence-based policy and service delivery. Other professional interests include addressing harms associated with the use of alcohol and other drugs, blood-borne virus transmission, and health outcomes associated with criminal justice system involvement. Brendan is interested to hear from frontline workers and service providers at this webinar about their experiences in addressing limited social connectedness among Aussie males.

Peter Torenbeek

President of the Cessnock Men’s Shed and Garden

Peter Torenbeek is a representative of the Australian Men’s Shed Association (AMSA). He has been the President of the Cessnock Men’s Shed and Garden for 12 years and has volunteered in the group for 16 years. Since his retirement from a senior management career in banking, Peter has volunteered in several organisations in the disability, seniors, and aged care industries. Peter was awarded the Cessnock Senior Citizen of the year title in 2015. He is excited to share his insights from his current role in the Men’s Shed movement and is hoping to take home some new learnings from this webinar.  

Ian Zajac

Senior Research Scientist at CSIRO and Clinical Psychologist

Dr Ian Zajac is a Senior Research Scientist at the CSIRO working across a broad range of areas including clinical trials, health behaviour and mental health. He is also a Clinical Psychologist and Director of MensPsych Psychology Services where he provides gender-informed care for adolescent and adult males seeking mental health treatment. Ian is looking forward to unpacking the links between social connectedness and mental health, and hearing from other professionals and individuals with lived experience working in this area.

Dr Sean Martin is the Program Lead for the Ten to Men (TTM): Australian Longitudinal Study on Male Health at AIFS. As part of this role he oversees the management of the content, methodology, and fieldwork activities for TTM, as well as engaging closely with government agencies, expert and community advisory groups, research communities and institutes, and other stakeholders. Sean is a clinical epidemiologist by training with over 15 years’ experience in men’s health–related research. He is looking forward to facilitating an insightful webinar on the importance of social connectedness for male mental health and wellbeing based on current research and practice.  

Acknowledgements

Featured image: © GettyImages/South_agency

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