Jack Bulman

My name's Jack Bulman. I'm the program manager for a program called Mibbinbah, which is an indigenous men's health program which deals with chronic conditions such as depression and anxiety. Mibbinbah is a south-western Yugambeh word, which means "men's place."

There's quite a few different reasons why depression and anxiety is at such a high rate. There's the trans-generational trauma, homelessness. There's education. There's health in itself. Unemployment does play a big role, especially in like males, talking from a male perspective. There is an alcohol connection. We know that when we drink, that it might numb the pain for a little while, for our fellas, especially for our fellas. But then when you wake up in the morning, the same problems are still there. So, it doesn't really solve anything. Probably it makes it worse.

There are a few, like, warning signs. If you're lacking sleep. If you have got a job, you're not performing up to normal standard. You might become quiet. You mightn't be talking to anyone. You might be just sitting there with your head down. All these sort of things. It's something that's real. And it's not about like weak people get it. I'm talking to a lot of our fellas, a lot of our fellas have been through the same thing. And they help. They actually help with other lads that have not been through it or are going through it, to be able to deal with the signs and symptoms, I guess.

The way that we get them along to like a men's group in particular is... Free feeds are always good to get them there. Some of our lads are homeless. Some of them haven't eaten for a couple of days. So, a free feed is always good. So, we'll have a barbeque, and have some salad as well, and try and make it as healthy as possible as well. But for the ones that don't, I mean, there's an indigenous male health worker at most aboriginal medical services. There's mental health workers. There's psychologists. There's the GP.

A lot of health workers work in their own community. So, they've already got the blessing of the elders in the community to be working in that community. But if you are a new health worker coming into someone else's country, well, then you do have to build that respect and trust and confidence. So, it does come back to that. You have to make it a safe place for yourself. And to do that, you have to work with all those other people in that community. Like, it might take two years to build that confidence and trust, to be able to deal with a person, but if they are suffering like chronic depression and anxiety, well, then you need to engage someone else's help to be able to help them if you haven't gained their trust. So, you might... If you are a new health worker from another area, you might engage one of the local health workers that is their country that knows that community best.

Family plays a big part in this as well. I mean if you can gain the trust of the kids or the partners or whatever, get them to talk. I mean that's what it's about. Like, we're talking about... Everybody needs to have someone to yarn to.

Probably the three biggest things that you need to be able to do when you're dealing with Aboriginal Torres Strait Islander men is to be able to gain that trust and confidence. And that's a really big one. You get knock-backs all the time. But you keep plugging away, being nice. Listening to people is another big one. You might sit there and nod your head, but are you listening? They might say, "I'm feeling sad", and you might say, "Well, tell me what you're feeling. Tell me how long you're feeling?" But not too much at one time. Long periods of silence is normal. It's not about being ignorant to you, or ignoring you, or anything like that. That silence is the big part of listening. You're listening, you're hearing nothing, so, you're saying nothing until they wanna talk to you.

Diversity is a big one as well. And it's not just diversity between Torres Strait Islander people and Aboriginal people. It's Aboriginal people from Northern Queensland to Tasmania. I mean there's just so much differences in language as well. You need to be able to respect that and go with that. One size doesn't fit all.

With what we do at Mibbinbah, we create that safe space for fellas so that when they come to a group meeting, they don't have to talk, they don't have to say anything. So, they might sit there for six weeks and not say anything. Until they feel safe, and make sure it's a safe space, and then they start to talk about issues such as depression and anxiety. And then we can get to explain to them, "Well, maybe we need to go and see a doctor."