If you notice large groups of men walking along the beach this summer, don’t be alarmed. It’s all part of Man Walk, an initiative to promote healthy discussions around men’s mental health. And what better place to do that than some of Australia’s most beautiful regional destinations?
Male suicide numbers have risen by more than 40 per cent in the past decade and yet more often than not, men are reluctant to have open and honest conversations around mental health. With COVID forcing millions of Australians into isolation, our minds have suffered even more than usual.
Man Walk began in 2018 with a physiotherapist’s morning walk around Kiama Harbour. As friends and strangers began to join his daily stroll, Mark Burns noticed how much the other men loved this ritual. They didn’t need advice or counselling, they just needed to talk. And they needed someone to listen. It soon became a regular support group where like-minded men could get together and talk in a relaxed environment. Now, it has morphed again into a nationwide movement.
A good stroll through nature is like medicine for the mind. It has been proven to reduce anxiety and boost self-esteem, so it’s the perfect place to start conversations about mental wellbeing. Man Walk aims to create a safe space where men are free to open up with absolutely no judgement, with the hope that this mindset will eventually spread to the wider community.
According to the founders, “the Man Walk provides an environment that is positive, supportive and inclusive, where there is no pressure and no barriers to entry. Just an opportunity to walk, talk and support!”
“We want to make it ok to talk, and we want to make it ok for men to ask for help if they need it.”
Anyone who identifies as a man can join the walks, stretch their legs in the fresh air and meet some new friends. Each group will set a regular meeting place and time, usually once a week and anyone who wants to join can drop in.
There are walking groups popping up all over Australia (and even one in the UK!) but if you can’t find one near you, why not start one? New South Wales has almost 30 groups as widespread as Mudgee, Kiama, Albury and Mollymook. It’s the perfect excuse to escape the city once a week and enjoy the healing powers of a walk with friends along the coast or through the bush.
To find a Man Walk near you, head to the website. If you are in crisis or need mental health support, call Lifeline on 13 11 14.