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‘It's tough being a guy’: How Vanderhoof Men’s Shed is promoting mental health

Founder of HeadsUpGuys will visit the Vanderhoof Men’s Shed to promote men’s mental health
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David Leslie stands with his Men's Shed companions at its Burrard Market spot in Vanderhoof. Since it started in November 2014, as a therapeutic space for men to gather and work, the Men's Shed group has grown to more than 50 members.

The founder of an online men’s mental health website will be visiting the Vanderhoof Men’s Shed this week to further the conversation about men’s mental health options.

Dr. John Ogrondiczuk, is a professor of psychiatry and the director of the psychotherapy program at UBC and the founder of HeadsUpGuys.

It’s an online, anonymous resource specifically designed for men, and their families, to prevent the continued erosion of men’s mental health and deaths by suicide.

A simple survey in the waiting room of a doctor’s office was the catalyst for Ogrondiczuk to create the online resource as men clearly indicated they were having suicidal thoughts on the survey, yet failed to mention these thoughts to the doctor they were about to see.

“We're just going to talk about mental health, pointers, and all that kind of stuff,” said Brad Newell, volunteer with HeadsUpGuys, of the upcoming visit to the Vanderhoof Men’s Shed.

Newell said HeadsUpGuys hopes to get the word out about the Men’s Shed, which is a physical space to address men’s tendency to suffer from isolation, loneliness and depression after retirement. Men’s Sheds are modeled after an Australian movement which started in 2007.

“We are just going to talk to the community. The community of Vanderhoof is amazing and they’ve got 100 members – That just shows you the need.”

Doug Mackie founded the first Canadian shed in 2011 in Winnipeg and the Vanderhoof Men’s Shed opened in 2014.

“It’s for older guys that have lost their lost their wife or they're not working anymore and they're lonely so it's a place for them to go,” explained Newell.

In a shed, men get together for activities like woodworking projects, cooking, bike repairs, music, or even yelling at the television during the playoffs.

“But more importantly than anything is a place for guys to go and talk because guys don't talk - Guys, will talk more side-by-side as they're working on something.”

Newell said one of the reasons he’s so passionate about promoting men’s mental health is because he’s lost people in his own life to suicide.

“It is my whole life. I eat sleep and drink it,” said Newell.

“Guys are supposed to suck it up and be stoic and it's tough. It's tough being a guy. It is tough on women, too, for sure, but women talk. Women will talk to their girlfriends or whoever, but guys don't and they leave it all bottled up inside. That's the problem. Some of the guys you think are the most together guys are the ones struggling the most.”

Newell said one of the resources available on the HeadsUpGuys website is an anonymous self-check test that provides resources to those who need it.

“It’s 20 questions and it takes 10 minutes and it will tell you if you should see a counselor or a doctor. It is very good, and it gets guys thinking a bit more,” said Newell.

“The guys out there struggling. They should go for help and talk to their friends. Don’t keep it bottled up. Because it doesn't get better, it just keeps festering and festering to a point where it could get really bad.”

Dr. John Ogrondiczuk will visit the Vanderhoof Men’s Shed at 2593 Burrard Street on August 12 at 1 p.m. and HeadsUpGuys is available for free online.