Penrith Men's Walk and Talk - The Westies

Penrith Men’s Walk and Talk

Being a man in 2019 requires you to be both tough and in touch with your emotions. Pretty much diametrical opposites of the spectrum. A couple of months ago a few mates recognised that some of them were struggling and they could all benefit from more regular contact and getting a few things off their chests, rather than constantly talking about what they needed, they sprang into action to address some big issues amongst men these days including connection and belonging. So we where do you start with something that can feel so big? You start small, one foot in front of the other. You walk and you talk.

The Westies sat down for a chat with some of the founding members of Penrith Men’s Walk and Talk to find out how things got started and how a simple activity is making such a big difference.

The Westies: Tell me how the group got started and what it is you do?

Kev – I spoke to a mate, probably six weeks prior to starting and said: “we’ve got to do something, we’ve got mates going through some tough things and actually all of us are going through something.”

Paul –  
We had a couple of big ideas about what we were going to do, maybe a Mens Shed but we are too young for that and I thought, I actually have to action this instead of just talking about it. We got busy and then came up with the idea of this walk and each time we talked about it, it just came naturally. So we just did it. Everyone we spoke to said “what a great idea” no one said “it won’t work”

We’re just a group of blokes who meet down here every week, go for a walk and give other blokes an opportunity to come out and do the walk too. If they know someone is struggling it’s an easy option to say to them, “hey mate, come along to this walk, you’ll meet some decent blokes and you’ll talk and if you don’t want to talk, you don’t have to.”

The Westies: Why did you think it was important to start the group?

Kevin –
We (men) would never ring each other up and say “can we talk, want to get a coffee?” it would be such an awkward conversation and after five or ten minutes someone would say “All done?” and we would be out of there. Someone once said to me; men talk side by side, women talk eye to eye. We might start chatting about footy and fifteen minutes later we’re really getting into it.

Previous to this I reckon I’d see Allan four times a year. When we played football together we would see each other three times a week, we are great mates and he has been through some rough times. When we were younger you would see people at weddings and bucks parties then when you get older, you stop playing football. You stop training and you only ever see each other at funerals. I do the river walk every day with my wife, I enjoy the walk but Thursday night with the boys is a different experience.

Paul –
About week three we were struggling a bit and on that night three blokes went to Billy to get some more support, I went home that night and I was on a bit of a high thinking that three blokes had gone and got help. How good is that?

The Westies – Billy you work for LikeMind a mental health organisation, tell me what your involvement is with the group?

Billy –
We were at a function for the Mayor’s Charity Golf Day and Paul came up and told me about the idea for the group and asked if LikeMind would like to be involved to which I said: “Yes, I would very much like to be involved.” So I’ve been coming down to support the group and it’s also been great for my own mental health.

Paul –  
Billy has been brilliant for us because we haven’t got the skills to identify anyone who is struggling but Billy does and guys seem to feel comfortable talking to him, so having him here every week has been absolutely brilliant for us. It probably shocked us, how many blokes have approached him because they needed the help.

Allan –
Billy has helped us so much, we’re not counsellors. We’re just here to listen and I can tell them what I have been through but to have Billy’s professional support that we can refer to is really great.

The Westies – You’ve managed to build up the group in a really short amount of time, how are men finding out about it?

Kevin –
Social media. And the women are the ones pushing the guys. They are tagging their husbands and sharing it. The support has been fantastic.

Allan –
The word has just spread so quickly, it’s really good to see social media come into use for something positive instead of it being detrimental to someone’s well being.
Kevin –
People have already said we have helped, I don’t think we will ever really know how much we have helped. We’re not here to pat ourselves on the back we’re just here to get fit, reconnect and enjoy.

Penrith Men’s Walk and Talk meet every Thursday evening at the Coffee Club at Nepean River, Penrith where they set out to do the bridge to bridge walk at 7pm.

Interview: Katrina James
Photos: Katrina James