Canterbury uni initiative helping men talk about mental health

Source: 1News

A university student-led campaign helping undo the stigma around men's mental health is the latest thing taking off in Christchurch after the Student Volunteer Army.

Every Wednesday, university students, alongside the men’s mental health charity Lads Without Labels, head to a university flat in Canterbury to share some kai and have a kōrero about mental health.

The movement, Flat Chats, was started by Lads without Labels members Max Devonshire and Thomas Vincent.

Lads without Labels had just five students when it started three years ago to get students talking about mental health. It's since grown to 18 executives and over 500 student sign-ups.

"It's got a particular focus on men’s mental health and trying to break down the stigma that comes along with everything and also try to normalise having conversation about mental health in everyday life," Devonshire told 1News.

“This is both of our first years on it and the first year of Flat Chats, so it’s sort of just come to fruition over the last two or three months. It's just taken off, really," Vincent added.

Max Devonshire and Thomas Vincent.

Part of the initiative sees club members taking dinner to a flat and chatting all things wellbeing.

“We've actually had a lot of interest and a lot of people just coming to us,” Devonshire said.

“We've just got flats lining up, to be fair. We've got enough flats lined up for the rest of the year.”

When it comes to the kōrero, Devonshire and Vincent say they're not there to preach at people.

"It's not a group therapy session sort of thing or a lecture either," said Vincent.

Devonshire added that it wasn't about "us talking at you for half an hour and it's not us saying tell me everything about your life".

They're hoping to provide an opportunity for an organic discussion.

“Every time we’ve done it you sort of see people start with their arms crossed and then by the end, everyone’s sitting back and laughing,” Vincent said.

It's an approach which works for students and is already gaining support from mental health professionals.

“We've also had people from the DHB, Suicide Prevention and Mental Health Services get in touch with us being like, 'we wanna do stuff with you guys. We think what you’re doing is really cool. How can we help?'” Vincent said.