Because men don’t often make a fuss about their problems, these problems have consistently been either ignored or swept under the mat by both health systems and modern society. The Men’s Shed movement is a powerful tool in helping men to once again become valued and valuable members of the community.
Many men have learned that it is unusual for them to talk about feelings and emotions; many do not take an interest in their own health and well-being. Unlike women, most men are reluctant to talk about their emotions and that means that they usually don’t ask for help. Probably because of this, many men are less healthy than women, drink more, take more risks and suffer more from isolation, loneliness and depression. Relationship breakdown, retrenchment or early retirement from a job, loss of children following divorce, physical or mental illness are just some of the problems that men may find difficult to deal with on their own.
On a deeper level, Men’s Sheds provide acceptance, a sense of purpose, increased well being and improved health.
Older men have a wealth of experience, stories and knowledge to share. Men’s Sheds provide a place for this to happen. Younger men benefit from the chance to be shown new skills as well as exchanging their own knowledge of more modern technology or culture.
Let's face it, many men are not comfortable with the idea of just sitting down for long periods of time with a cup of tea and a biscuit and talking in a café or hall type setting. However, if you shift that idea and combine it also with ‘doing’ where men can help others, learn something new or perhaps show other men their skills, learn to cook, upholster furniture, play music, practise speaking with one another after having a stroke, swap stories or learn computer skills, the possibilities are endless and it takes on a whole new life of its own. Men change from a passive lifestyle e.g. watching loads of television to an active, participatory lifestyle.
A phrase you may hear in Sheds, which was first coined by Professor Barry Golding, patron of the Australian Men’s Movement is : ‘Men don’t talk face to face, they talk shoulder to shoulder,’ whilst working or enjoying a hobby with their mates. They might discuss their own health issues with other men and find that someone has had a similar experience and has a lot of helpful insights on how to get through it themselves. Once this comradery has been established in a Shed over time, sometimes men in the Sheds go on to initiate outside speakers to come to the shed to share their knowledge. A variety of speakers and talks have been hosted in Scottish Sheds already e.g. Chest, heart and stroke, bereavement, prostate cancer, suicide, healthy eating, wills etc. Men want to know about this information to increase their personal understanding but also to enable them on how to support a friend in the Shed or partners, family members or neighbours in the outside world.
As life expectancy continues to extend, the need for men to maintain a healthy lifestyle and active engagement within the community has never been so important.
History of Men's Sheds
The Men’s Shed movement has now become one of the most powerful tools in addressing health and wellbeing and helping men to once again become valued and productive members of our community.
Men’s Sheds are designed to appeal to men in ways which traditional “community groups” don’t. Men generally like to get involved in practical tasks and get to know people by working alongside them, rather than sitting down face to face. Men’s Sheds feel familiar and welcoming.
With their origins in Australia, the Men's shed movement was seen as a way for "blokes" to feel good about themselves, be productive, contribute to their community, connect with friends and maintain an active body and mind. All of these things within an atmosphere of old-fashioned mateship.
In 2007 the Australian Men's Shed Association was formed to offer practical support, specialised services and resources to Men's Sheds across the country. A major achievement for the Association was formal recognition by the Federal Government of the role that Men’s Shed play in addressing social isolation, health and well-being. Its inclusion in the National Male Health Policy launched in 2010 lead to funding through the Federal Department of Health with a major proportion of this funding quarantined specifically for the direct financial assistance to Men’s Sheds. In Australia there are currently around 950 active sheds.
The first shed in the UK was opened in 2009 in Hartford, Cheshire and since then the numbers have swelled. In 2013 the UK Men's Shed Association was formed to give advice, support and guidance to groups wishing the start up their own sheds. Since then the number of active and open sheds has grown to over 330 with a further 84 in development.
In Scotland, the Westhill Men's Shed pioneered the way. Opening in 2011, it showed what was possible and soon others sheds began to develop. The Scottish Men's Shed Association formed in 2015 to give further assistance to groups across Scotland wanting their own Shed. Currently there are 32 shed is operation and a further 16 (of which Stonehaven is one) in development.
The Men's Shed movement is developing in other countries too, with sheds in Finland, Greece, Ireland and Canada.
With thanks to the Australian Men's Sheds Association, UK Men's Shed Association and Scottish Men's Shed Association for content and inspiration. Videos used with owners permission and shared via YouTube.