With the onset of Covid-19 and associated lockdowns hitting hard, 2020 has had a detrimental effect on many men’s mental wellbeing.  

Maraetai local Chris Philpott recognised the symptoms of depression after hitting “rock bottom” a couple of years ago and was inspired recently to form a peer-led group called ‘Men of the Coast’ to help others struggling with mental health issues. 

Chris says he was “angry a lot, I was disillusioned with where I was in my career and my life, and I was ready to just give up on my job and my life in Auckland, and go somewhere new.”

His wife convinced him to see a doctor for a proper diagnosis. He was prescribed a daily anti-depressant and sessions with a therapist.

One of the groups’ objectives is to provide an outlet for men who traditionally can be reluctant to show their emotions and share their internal battles. 

Chris says that with the “kind of year that 2020 has been – with lockdowns, limited social gatherings, and even the working from home strategy, many workplaces (including mine) have adopted, has meant increased isolation.”

Chris hopes that ‘Men of the Coast’ can provide a place for attendees to go and just be themselves in the company of other men who are going through the same things they are.

“I think men – and really anyone – talking openly to be an incredibly brave and powerful act. As men, we tend to disregard our feelings and struggle with talking about what and how we feel” says Phil. 

He adds “ there is real power in being able to speak your truth, and then have other men agree with you and sympathise with you and encourage you. In terms of longer-term outcomes and group format choices, my intention is not to lead the group – its a democracy in that way, so each session will be very much run by the group as a whole and centred around the needs of all”.

Being based local to Beachlands, Maraetai and surrounding areas was important to Chris as he feels it provides social opportunities to area new-comers coupled with its other objective.

“Three-quarters of those attending the first meeting were men who’ve been in the area for less than two years, so it also provides a place to meet others from the area, and potentially create friendships,” he says. 

The group meets every second  Thursday night at 7 pm at the committee room at Te Puru Community centre. They will be taking a break for Christmas, but the group will be back into it in the new year.

Visit their Facebook page https://www.facebook.com/groups/menofthecoast for more information.