Voice of Regional Australia: Silver lining and speaking up for men's health

Voice of Real Australia is a regular newsletter from ACM, which has journalists in every state and territory. Sign up here to get it by email, or here to forward it to a friend.

A berry good cause: The Hillwood Berries Movember team get behind men's mental health during November. Picture: Neil Richardson

A berry good cause: The Hillwood Berries Movember team get behind men's mental health during November. Picture: Neil Richardson

As the COVID masks come down and the Christmas decorations go up, a couple of things run through my mind - yay, it's nearly Christmas ... but also, phew, this year is ending soon.

And maybe there's also a slight feeling of, whoa, settle down on the Christmas decorations, it's only November - there's still moustaches and men's mental health to celebrate before the tinsel takes over.

November also marks the one year anniversary of last year's harrowing firestorm that destroyed much of the NSW Mid North Coast - razing the homes of many friends and family, including my parents' and grandparents' places.

Without a doubt, this year has been a confusing and testing time for everyone. We've been hit hard in a lot of areas - and straight off the back of a brutal bushfire season to boot - unsurprisingly, it's people's mental health that experts worry will suffer most from this past year.

Mental health is a tough one to talk about for anyone. It's something we rarely give ourselves the space or courage to ask outsiders for help with, perhaps for fear of the vulnerability that comes with it.

According to the statistics, it's even harder for blokes to open up about - and I get it, it's one thing to acknowledge the need for help, but it's a whole other thing to be able to ask for it.

In an interview with the local paper to mark one year since the 2019 bushfires, my dad spoke about the heaviness of it all that he still felt. He'd lost more than his home, he'd also lost the "get-up-and-go" that had always driven him in life.

The destruction from the fires had knocked the wind out of him; and the road to rebuild seemed long, hard and daunting. I sobbed when I read it, not because it was a reminder of the damage the fires had caused, or because the journo Mel Dee was so gracious in her writing, but because dad was speaking up about how he felt.

Soon after that article came out, the heaviness started to lift and just when he was starting to rediscover that pep his step had been missing ... he broke his leg and his momentum came to a halt once again. Almost exactly one year and one week to the day after the bushfires.

Despite it being some kind of cruel butterfly-effect of the fires, he remains sincerely optimistic, maintaining that, "what doesn't kill you, makes you stronger".

The incident has reminded him not to take life too cheaply and that while it seems an extreme way to find his "mojo" again, the lesson in it all as been one in accepting what he can't change and moving forward from there.

More stuff happening around Australia ...

Sign up to get our Voice of Real Australia updates straight to your inbox