Menslink started in 2002, having operated for a number of years prior to that as a young men’s support network under the auspices of the Woden Community Centre. Founded by Richard Shanahan, a fellow of the Churchill Memorial Trust, Menslink was established to meet the increasing needs of young men and their families in our community.
Menslink supports young men across our region in three ways:
Encouraging them to speak up and get help, or inspire their mates to get help, through educational sessions in schools and other community groups; Providing intensive short-term counselling to help them get through stressful life events with the least amount of harm to themselves and those around them; and Longer term mentoring support from positive male role models, especially for young guys who are socially isolated or for the 17% of young men who no longer live with their father. Menslink is not affiliated with any religious or political group or party.
Why young men? Unfortunately, young men are overwhelmingly represented in adverse community statistics:
school dropout rates are nearly double
youth unemployment is 15% higher
juvenile justice system has a 9:1 ratio, rising to more than 50:1 in the adult system
4 in 5 suicides are men and it remains the leading cause of male death in every age group from 15-44. Each year, more young men die by their own hand than our entire national road toll
These days, social skills like team work and customer service are increasingly important in finding a job and building a positive and fulfilling life. Unfortunately, large numbers of young men find themselves socially isolated and without adequate male role models to teach them the social skills required of an adult man in today’s world. This lack of social engagement can cause problems not only for the young man and his family, but the community as a whole (demonstrated in the statistics above).
Menslink, our counsellors and team of volunteer mentors, show these young men – amongst other things – the social skills they need to develop and grow into positive adult men. Importantly, we involve them in our community to alleviate some of the social isolation they feel in their lives.
If we do nothing… The statistics above demonstrate an enormous and devastating impact on the young men and their families, as any parent of a young drug user, offender or suicide victim will tell you.
And there are economic impacts as well.
A 2009 Victorian study on youth mentoring showed the economic costs of disaffected youths can be high:
Around $500,000 for a high school drop out
Between $600,000 and $1.5 million for a heavy drug user
Around $2 million for a typical career criminal
(BMC Public Health: Are youth mentoring programs good value-for-money?)
A more recent study by KPMG – Economic cost of suicide in Australia (Menslink) highlighted that the Australian economy loses around $1.5 billion each year from male suicides, based on the estimated number of deaths in 2012. In the ACT alone, $21 million was lost.
Why “EVERYTHING IS POSSIBLE” Many people ask us about our tagline “EVERYTHING IS POSSIBLE.”
Well, we tend to see two types of young guys come through our programs needing assistance:
The first believes that “Nothing is possible”. These guys have experienced some pretty bad stuff in their lives – maybe dad or mum has walked out on them, they’ve endured severe bullying and/or violence at school or home, perhaps had one too many put-downs or rejections for being different, and may be experiencing depression or anxiety. For whatever reason, they believe that all their bright futures and options are closed off to them; that sadly, nothing is possible at all.
The second believes that “Only one thing is possible”. These guys think that the only path to “success” or fulfilment and happiness is being a first grade footballer, top of the class, having a career in medicine or engineering, or being with a particular partner forever. When sometimes this one path doesn’t work out the way they wanted, they feel devastated and begin to think like our first type; that every door is now shut to them.
Our belief is that EVERYTHING IS POSSIBLE; that there are many doors open to you at every stage in your life, no matter how hard things are now and no matter what you have done or had to experience.
Our job in talking to school students, mentoring young guys and providing counselling is to help young blokes identify their own options for the future – to find the doors that are open to them. Because everything can be, and is, possible.