Men’s health at heart

WHEN I spoke to war veteran, James Greenshields about his upcoming workshop to assist men’s emotional well-being, I breathed a sigh of relief.

Since the announcement Hazelwood power station and mine will close in March next year, anecdotes of emotional anguish, family breakdowns and supportive male fraternity have been rife.

As a journalist, I often interview power station and mine workers, unionists and others in the Latrobe Valley’s largest industry, but lately those phone calls and catch ups have become long conversations dotted with stories I dare not print in the pages of this newspaper.

One worker, suffering from severe lack of sleep, said his eyes welled up each time he drove into Morwell and saw the eight stacks of the brown coal power station on the horizon.

He told me that a younger colleague had told his partner that he was “better dead than alive” when he realised he was out of a job.

I listened, but I knew that there was only so much I could do to help.

James called me after hearing about Hazelwood on the news.

The former air force frontline-soldier is coming to Gippsland on a tour to share his story of depression and post-traumatic stress disorder after he was hit by a road-side bomb in Iraq.

Remembering contemplating suicide and barely able to hold a conversation on his return to Australia, he talks about the emotional hollowness men can feel when a role is stripped from them.

He said his story might have “military” written on it, but it was the same story for an increasing amount of men throughout Australia.

Whether it be power station workers, fly-in-fly-out miners, veterinarians or truck drivers, James said men were withdrawing inwards and confused.

“It’s the same for a farmer or someone at Hazelwood, they do that job for most of their working career and that’s how they provide and that’s how they believe they contribute,” James said.

“If they lose that they can feel worthless and don’t know what to do.”

He said men often attached their identity to what they do – but it was important for them to separate themselves from the “uniform” and recognise who they are and what they want in life.

“They have skills that are transferable, it may not be at a power station, but society needs these people and their skills,” James said.

“We need to help them understand who they are, what they want so they can stand up on their own two feet.”

The one-day ‘Put your Hand Up’ workshop, sponsored by Relationships Australia, will be held at the VRI Hall at 18/20 Queens Parade on the 14 and 15 December.

James said the day was about educating men about true masculinity and debunking the current view that masculinity is “emotionless”.

“It can be scary and we don’t want to feel that, but it’s about perceiving the pain. It’s an understanding of masculinity coming from a place of compassion that’s from the heart,” he said.

“I came from a dark place and if I look at where I am now, it’s nowhere near as severe. If I can do it, they can do it as well.”

To register for the event, visit

If this article causes you distress or if you require help or information, phone Lifeline 131 114 or Beyondblue 1300 224 636.