Partnership working in Men’s Sheds the key to positive change
"Going to a Men’s Shed allows men a whole different way of being empathetic, compassionate, vocal and kind."
Community involvement, building meaningful relationships, and working together collaboratively are integral parts of integration, and in turn are integral to our mental health and wellbeing. The Scottish Men’s Sheds Association (SMSA) are leading the way in pushing a culture shift that reflects this from within the third sector, whereby men of all ages across Scotland have a place to come together, socialise more healthily, share ideas, create in partnership shoulder to shoulder, and have a better quality of life.
Spaces where men come together with activities focused around alcohol have been linked to declining mental and physical health in men. The concept of a Men’s Shed first came about in Australia and has been gaining global popularity as a possible solution to this. Sheds have a ‘no alcohol, no drugs’ policy, encouraging men to create a healthy social life for themselves.
“Drinking alcohol is one of our biggest health issues”, says Chief Executive Jason Schroeder, who founded the Association in Scotland. “According to our patron, Sir Harry Burns, who was Scotland’s Chief Medical Officer, that’s still one of our biggest issues as a country. And so, now there’s a place where men aren’t tempted into risky behaviour while socialising, which men generally are by our natures and how we’re hardwired.”
Since becoming a charity in September 2014, the Scottish Men’s Sheds Association have supported the movement of now over 10,000 men of all ages, have over 3,500 members, and continues to guide the development and sustainability of over 200 Shed groups across Scotland. Sheds usually consist of both social spaces and workshops, with the interests of their members influencing how individual Sheds operate, putting people right at the centre. Men’s Sheds are set up by volunteers throughout the country, with the association acting as a national support hub to assist communities in making sure their Sheds are developed and maintained to a purposeful and sustainable standard in line with Scottish legislation.
“Sheds are purposely not run by us”, Jason says. “It’s not a top-down movement, it’s a grassroots movement – for the men, by the men – so we’re empowering people and communities to take charge of their lives again. For the Shed to survive, they have to work with their community.”
The Association has been able to offer Shed members discounts on things like tools, insurance and electricity due to their partnerships with different businesses, highlighting the importance of partnership working across the sectors. As well as this, the Association place an emphasis on the health benefits of Men’s Sheds, which has involved collaboration with Macmillan Cancer Support, Prostate Scotland and MenSelf+ in various projects to highlight how social and cultural determinants can affect a wide range of poor health outcomes.
Jason continued: “understanding male engagement psychology sets us apart and therefore, we’re getting such amazing results.”
Thanks to this innovative and transformational focus on male psychology, Jason feels that in line with advances made in technological communication, Men’s Sheds will become even more necessary as venues for community collaboration, given the science suggests it is essential for humans to engage in frequent physical face-to-face interaction.
“When we look into human psychology, if we don’t have physical interaction, it can have detrimental effects on our wellbeing. So, as technology can often be a solitary experience, you’re not actually getting that eye-to-eye human connection. I realised due to mens hard wiring for internalising, Men’s Sheds, where men can meet in a healthy way, are more needed than ever now.”
Scotland has the highest rate of male suicide per capita in Europe of 22 to 45 year olds, which has also ignited Jason to deliver this alternative model of health and wellbeing. By listening to the views of members and those across the sectors, the Scottish Men’s Sheds Association have heard that Men’s Sheds can be influential in reducing suicide rates, as well as domestic violence, due to the correlation between testosterone, purposelessness and single focused outcomes which can lead to aggression and depression.
“For me, we had to create a change”, Jason says. “We had to bring something brand new to the model of health for our culture, for our country, for our kids, and for all our lives. Going to a Men’s Shed and having camaraderie amongst men, which isn’t competitive, isn’t aggressive and doesn’t involve money, allows men a whole different way of being empathetic, compassionate, vocal and kind. Ten years on in Scotland after the first Men’s Shed opened in Westhill, Aberdeenshire, we start seeing a completely different male engagement culture organically forming, which has become a global health phenomena.”
You can learn more about the culture shift being pushed by the Scottish Men’s Sheds Association on their website here: https://scottishmsa.org.uk
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