August 2, 2023

celebrating fatherhood with two local dads

Written by Grace

we sat down with Ben McDonald, local Dad and Founder of Yeah, Man, a community group supporting and advocating for men's mental health.

What prompted you start Yeah, Man?

Yeah, Man started after reflecting on some statistics regarding the state of men’s health that we need to make known more widely. At any given point 1 in 8 males will be experiencing depression, at any given point in time 1 in 5 males will be experiencing anxiety, 1 in 3 males over 30, reports to have no social connections, 3 out of 4 suicides in Australia are males, 7 men take their own life every single day in Australia, the most likely thing to kill a man between the ages of 18 and 55 in Australia is ourselves.

It is a damning set of statistics.

As a bloke, you get to a certain time in your life and the places where we had previously found connection - in the surf, on the footy field, socialising - are no longer what they used to be and we start to lose that feeling of connectedness, of belonging - and it leaves a void.

It's really clear, as blokes we've lost our ancient rituals of gathering as communities and the skills of storytelling & learning from the collective wisdom. We thought, if we can give guys on the Peninsula a platform to tell their story and teach them some skills to express themselves, then we can create meaningful human connection and we can change these statistics within a community.

What can you expect from a Yeah, Man session?

Each session is based on a different theme. The idea is to share stories about particular parts of our lives and then as guys come to more and more sessions, they are building up this wonderful catalogue of stories and have the platform to tell them. Some of the themes so far have been,'The current state of manhood', 'Fathers and father figures', 'Hardships and highlights' and 'Mateship.'

In a relaxed and welcoming environment, we provide the opportunity for guys to connect with each other and meet people they haven’t met before o share their experience or story with others. It's not about getting up in front of everyone and telling your life story, but more conversational and less intimidating.

We give some practical structures and language to use through the session and take home afterwards to teach the ability to express ourselves, accurately label feelings and emotions and listen with curiosity. We don’t take ourselves too seriously either, so there are a fair few laughs along the way!

What has been one thing that you have learnt from your time running the Yeah, Man sessions?

I learn something new about blokes and community every single session. One of the main things is that guys are ready to talk and crave the opportunity to share in a safe space. I thought I was going to have challenges getting everyone to talk, but turns out - that's not a problem!

Can you describe why it’s important for Father’s to look after their mental health?

Fatherhood (parenting) challenges us on every level - challenges our relationships, challenges our priorities in life, challenges our physical and mental stamina every single day. If we don’t have the skills and the platform to be able to express how we're feeling throughout these challenges and the ability to prioritise looking after ourselves, then they will eventually overwhelm us - and that's where you start to see those statistics I mentioned become more prevalent.

What does Fatherhood mean to you?

Fatherhood is the only thing I can ever remember really wanting to achieve in life and now it is such a huge part of who I am. I love it that it continues to challenge me as an individual and I love seeing the kids grow up into their own unique personalities. I hope we can provide an environment full of love and support for each of them to be whoever they want to be.

What is one of the most memorable things you learnt from your Father?

The importance of ritual and storytelling

Where do you see Yeah, Man in the next five years?

I have no master plan for Yeah, Man other than that it continues to grow and become a meaningful part of the Mornington Peninsula community and hopefully we can affect some of those statistics that I spoke of earlier.

Discover Yeah, Man and follow the team on Instagram

we were so inspired, we wanted to chat to more Dad's in our community.

Local Dad, Simon Gullery, chats all things Fatherhood, looking after yourself and what he has learnt throughout his parenting journey.

Can you describe why it’s important for Father’s to look after their mental health?

A solid foundation of mental health for a father has a strong correlation to the way their children grow and develop. By maintaining positive mental health allows me to feel confident, supported and equipped with the right skills to navigate the every changing landscape of parenthood, and in turn I can remain resilient and present to support my children and role model positive behaviours and attitudes that they can mirror.

What do you do in your daily / weekly routine to look after your mental and physical wellbeing?

I have found that moving my body each day and building a repeatable routine around this has set a foundation of good physical and mental health, whether its walking the dog first thing in the morning, road cycling, swimming or running, along with developing mental skills through meditation using health apps before bed or yin yoga, not to mention a 10min cold water plunge in the ocean a couple of times a week all year round!

What does Fatherhood mean to you?

Fatherhood is about teaching and being taught, with both sides pushing and pulling toward a better version of ourselves. Its equal parts protecting and nurturing while also empowering and letting go at the same time. To me it led to the biggest pivot of responsibility and focus on others versus yourself, but in return you receive reward in the form of deep love that only comes from knowing you have created a life and been trusted to guide and support them as they develop to a point that they can take on all that lies ahead for them.

What has been the most surprising thing you have learnt in Fatherhood?

How little you really know at any one time, and as soon as you feel you have mastered something or understood your child’s perspective they have moved on in development and a new element of their life has arrived, and the learning circle begins again! And food, its all about food for my 3 kids, it’s a constant quest for more food in our house!

What is one of the most memorable things you learnt from your Father?

My father taught me that you don’t have to know everything at the beginning. He would always say be patient, committed and disciplined and you can take on any task, and there is always someone who knows more that you, so build connections and contacts to leverage what insight others can share.

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