Mountain Men find new friends and tackle the big issues

Paul Rogers with Lilith, Michael Colling with Maya and baby Roman, Rob Giddion with Aspen and Heath Pawley with ultrasound of child.

The Dandenong Ranges group Mountain Men is providing social activities for men to connect support and learn from one another in a safe, inclusive and non-judgmental space.

The group recently received Grants for Community funding from Council, to fund a new service focusing on social and support initiatives for men of all backgrounds and abilities.

Mountain Men founder Michael Colling said the groups social activities help reduce isolation, and improve mental health and wellbeing outcomes.

Years ago, while facing the demands of being a new parent and work, Mr Colling posted on Facebook to reach out to other men to see if they were feeling as isolated as he was.

Within 24 hours, he received dozens of messages from men who felt the same way but also from women asking him to start a group for their partners.

“Becoming a Dad for the first time in 2015 was the happiest time in my life but it also came during one of the most stressful periods I’d had with work,” Mr Colling said.

“I had become quite isolated from past friendships except for those online and would stare at my phone like a zombie for hours on end as a way of connecting with others outside work.”

After spending the past 20 years specialising in the mental health and wellbeing of adolescents, he realised he had done nothing to support his own mental health.

“I craved those same connections with other blokes like I had as a teenager, especially as a scout, where you would spend hours just hanging out, talking, hiking and camping,” he said.

After starting the Mountain Men Facebook group, which attracted more than 200 likes on its first day, Mr Colling established a Board of Directors with eight locals from different backgrounds and ages.

He said the Council grant would fund some social projects, including a monthly board game night, hiking group, coffee catch-up group, and the potential for a young Dads’ group.

“On average, one in eight men will experience depression and one in five men will experience anxiety at some stage of their lives,” he said.

“The number of men who die by suicide in Australia every year is nearly double the national road toll.”

Mountain Men plans to form a ‘Yarning Circle’ event with guest speakers, enabling men to talk openly and help one another.

For more information about Council’s Grants for Community, visit: yarraranges.vic.gov.au/grants