'Safe haven': Man cave wants to remove the stigma

The Australian Man Cave Support Group representatives Johan Hausoul and Pastor Lou Greco made Fairfield MP Guy Zangari the first patron of the Man Cave last week. Picture: Simon Bennett
The Australian Man Cave Support Group representatives Johan Hausoul and Pastor Lou Greco made Fairfield MP Guy Zangari the first patron of the Man Cave last week. Picture: Simon Bennett

Pastor Lou Greco hates to say it. It makes him sick every time he hears it.

On average, six men will take their lives every single day in Australia.

"It's disgusting," he said. "Men need to get out of that stigma that it's weak to speak."

It's the driving force behind The Australian Man Cave Support Group.

Together with Pastor Agostino Gattellari, the pair wanted to create a secular safe haven for men to express themselves without judgement.

In 2017 the idea for a support group towards suicide prevention was given a tragic push with the suicide of a close friend.

In February, 2018 the group was formed to break down barriers and cut through the social stigma of "male toughness". From four members the group has grown to more than 40.

There is no clubhouse or fixed location. The group is borderless and helps people from across Australia.

We don't promise to solve your problems but we promise, you don't have to face them alone.

LOU GRECO

Monthly gatherings are organised to provide a space for men to speak about themselves and their needs leading to ongoing support and care.

The group has made gelato at Smithfield, strung-up salami and sausages at Bringelly and plan on going to a guitar making shop later this year. They have also held fundraising gala events.

"The key for the success of the Australian Man Cave Support Groupis that we don't sit around the table saying hey, what's your problem, buddy? We do things," Mr Greco said.

"We don't promise to solve your problems but we promise, you don't have to face them alone. The idea is to create that safe haven and build that sanctity of trust.

"If we see that that the situation is beyond our capability, that's when we refer them on and hopefully because we've built that trust, they will listen to us. If they don't have that trust in us, as soon as we say you need extra help, they just kind of go: 'Yeah, I don't need that'."

Mr Greco said they have dealt will all types of issues including addictions, family loss, illness and mental issues. They have also supported a man who was wrongly accused of domestic violence and help women who are supporting at-risk men.

The Australian Man Cave Support Group wants to tackle the alarming statistic that on average, six men will take their lives every single day in Australia.

The Australian Man Cave Support Group wants to tackle the alarming statistic that on average, six men will take their lives every single day in Australia.

Group secretary Johan Hausoul said human nature dictates that we do better when we allow ourselves to "rely on others."

"When people are in a state of crisis and they have support systems they can access to help them, they do better in the long run," he said.

"In addition to the initial contact via the monthly meetings, we can provide assistance through their network of associated organisation to provide a more professional assistance protocol. Assisting the needy with the research of identifying the right help and the costs associated with some of this assistance is what we pride ourselves on."

One of the group's biggest supporters is Fairfield MP Guy Zangari. Last week the group made him the first patron for his ongoing support to help in their mission to reduce the rate of male suicide.

"The Man Cave does a tremendous job engaging with and supporting vulnerable men and I am incredibly thankful for their efforts throughout the greater Fairfield community," Mr Zangari said

"I've had long lost colleagues contact me out of the blue and ask about the man cave so the word is getting out there.

"Despite only being active for a relatively short time, the support that the Australian Man Cave has garnered throughout the community is a true reflection of the tremendous work they do."

Fairfield MP Guy Zangari and Lou Greco making salami.

Fairfield MP Guy Zangari and Lou Greco making salami.

And they want to do more.

Mr Greco said the long-term plan is to have a group set up in every suburb, including a refugee man cave Fairfield and an emergency services group.

"I don't know why we don't have one in every suburb," he said.

"There is a standard you have to go by and one of them is that there's no money involved. If you go to a cafe, you spend what you can afford. But that's how we started with our own little group and from there we bought a friend and it just grew.

"My goal is to have it all over Australia."

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