SEAN Weir wants more men to talk.
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The gym owner, mental health advocate and podcaster realised early in his mission that he had to be okay with being completely open and genuine in sharing his story if he was asking this of others.
Drugs. Brushes with the law. The suicide attempt that put him in hospital for a week.
How he has worked to completely change the course of his life.
The Shaka Project founder said he shares his past because the tough stuff all relates back to mental health and support.
"It's super important [to share]. I was always hesitant to do so but as soon as I allowed myself to open up, more people in my life started to share their stories," Sean said.
"I've got a good network of people who can talk to me if they're going through a tough time and I can go to them. I want people to build a good community and mateship around them."
I want people to build a good community and mateship around them.- Sean Weir, The Shaka Project
This Men's Health Week, Sean encourages men to reach out to a mate. He wants communities of men - football clubs, boxing groups, old school friends - to make a point to catch up in some way and really think about what it means to have a good support network.
Anyone struggling to reach out to friends can call past The Shaka Project's Lydiard Street base for a chat.
Sean regards his suicide attempt not as a turning point, but as a major incident in his life. He said the big lesson was that mental health was a process in which "you don't just get well but you can get better".
For Sean, there was a passion to own his business and now has gyms in Ballarat and Bendigo.
He started the Shaka Project in early 2019 as a way to create a legacy and do something bigger. He wanted to give back and make a difference supporting grassroots charities and sporting clubs.
"We pick clothing that encourages conversation," Sean said. "If you see someone wearing The Shaka Project you know there's someone with mental health empathy.
"Our clothes are a permission slip to talk. You can see someone walking around in one of our tops and know it's okay to talk mental health to someone who's open to listen. It's permission without using words.
"The biggest thing with men's mental health is about starting the conversation."
Podcasting was another avenue Sean thought he could get himself and a few mates talking more.
From The Shaka Project's foundations, he launched 100% with Sean Weir as Victoria went into its first lockdown last year.
In talking with friends, Ballarat guests and representatives from partner bodies across Australia and New Zealand, Sean said he found he was able to better process an understanding of his own past struggles.
One that struck him most was friend and The Shaka Project colleague Jake Thompson on "those left behind". Thompson's father died by suicide when Thompson was a child.
"The moment someone attempts suicide there are impacts and the effects of PTSD [post-traumatic stress disorder]. This was a side you don't normally see, the family," Sean said.
"[The podcast series] has been really revealing in thinking about my own story. I've become a little less apprehensive when I hear others sharing things that you can't even imagine others going through.
"It's been really interesting hearing others share their lives. Some people have had really tough upbringings and they're really inspiring."
Suicide is the leading cause of death for Australians aged 15 to 44 years old, according to Black Dog Institute, and about 65,000 Australians make a suicide attempt each year.
Suicide among Ballarat men remains stubbornly high at almost 30 per cent more than the national average in Australian institute of Health and Welfare data released in August.
The Shaka Project headquarters, opened late last year, offer a chill-out space for men to drop-by and maybe read or play some Xbox but Sean said it was not just a hang-out. The team was serious about checking-in on visitors and following up with them.
They want no-one to feel alone.
The Shaka Project supports grassroots events across the nation, including work with football clubs, school programs and headspace.
Sean said if we could all do one thing this Men's Health Week to get men starting to talk, and to have someone to listen, it could make a big difference.
Help is also available, but not limited, via the following organisations. The key message is you are not alone.
Beyond Blue 1300 224 636 or beyondblue.org.au
Suicide Callback Service: 1300 659 467
Mensline: 1300 789 978 or mensline.org.au
Survivors of Suicide: 0449 913 535
Relationships Australia: 1800 050 321
headspace Ballarat (for 12-25s and parent support): 5304 4777
Soldier On: 1300 620 380
Ballarat Community Health: 5338 4500
QLife: 1800 184 527 (Support for gay, lesbian, bisexual, transgender and intersex people)
Family violence: 1800 RESPECT
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