*Speech delivered in the Senate on 15th June 2023.
We're all mindful of the importance of mental health
—how to be aware of it and when to reach out for help. But being vulnerable and opening up to someone isn't an easy thing to do. It's important to find a person, a place or a community that makes you feel safe.
Across Australia, the Men's Table is doing just that—creating a safe and healthy community where men can be heard and supported while also being able to support others.
The co-founder of the Men's Table, Ben Hughes, is based in Tassie. I've watched the amazing work he has done to take the Men's Table from a single meeting of 12 men to 137 tables across the country.
So what do I mean when I talk about a table? A table is a group of a dozen or so men who meet at the same place at the same time each month over a meal. It gives them an opportunity to make lifelong friendships and have connection and belonging. It's a simple yet very effective model.
Participants say the Men's Table has positively impacted their families, friends and the wider community around them.
In my home state of Tasmania, a high rate of all suicides are committed by men. Men often become isolated and struggle to make friendships, and this is more obvious in rural areas, where men tend to work by themselves. That's why this program is so important and has grown rapidly over the past four years.
There's a genuine need out there for something like the Men's Table. I truly believe that the work Ben and his team are doing is making a big difference in the lives of men in Tasmania and across the country.
When we look at funding for health, more money for doctors, nurses and psychiatrists is essential, but it's also worth looking outside the box at the benefit of programs like the Men's Table.
This community-building program is changing lives. I think that's worthy of support from all levels of government.