Nurturing the male mind

HEALTHY MIND: Pieter Van Der Kooij is running two men’s nights in Mount Isa this June 22 and 29. Photo: supplied
HEALTHY MIND: Pieter Van Der Kooij is running two men’s nights in Mount Isa this June 22 and 29. Photo: supplied

Men’s health is the task at hand for travelling physiotherapist Pieter Van Der Kooij, running men’s nights in Mount Isa this month.

The sessions take place at Mount Isa Community Church on Thursday June 23 and 29 from 7pm to 8.30pm. 

Self-funded and self-managed, Pieter is audibly passionate about helping men become healthier and happier through discussions on the subject of mental health and mental health conditions.

“My uncle died quite young seven years ago, and if I had the information that I have now as a physiotherapist and a podiatrist, I really think I could have made a difference in his life,” he said.

“The workshop is about helping guys help other guys, giving them information on how they can help each other.” 

He says the two-night event in Mount Isa is all about helping guys talk to each other, to normalise and encourage conversations around mental health.

​"The majority of men will talk to other men about issues, but those guys have no idea how to help them so you end up just having a beer and talking but it never actually gets resolved."

Pieter works around Australia and enjoys consulting with other health professionals in the regions he visits; the Outback, South Australia, Victoria, South Africa.

Although Pieter specialises in physiotherapy and podiatry he covers a broad range of issues in his sessions.

“I like to talk to doctors and other people in the communities I work in,and involved them in the sessions.

“I think people are pretty excited there is something else to increase awareness around men’s health and mental health related issues,” he said.

Pieter discusses fun ways to help out friends going through depression, such as going for a paddle with the canoe club on a Tuesday, hitting the gym, or playing a game of tennis.

“Doing fun activities with a friend going through mental health issues can actually help them.

"Rather than sort of dismissing an issue and then it doesn’t get talked about anymore because they just don’t get the right help,” Pieter said.

Pieter completed a suicide prevention course last year and heard that most suicide victims visited a doctor within three months of death.

Doctors responded by saying there is not enough time to talk to patients in depth about their mental health, said Pieter.

“So really, it comes down to us as a community to recognise the red flags of people going through hard times, and having more skills to help them.”

“And being a bit more open about saying ‘Hey, maybe you could talk to a counsellor’.

“It’s a massive problem with men, because men don’t like talking about that stuff at all, or they don’t know how to express it.

“And when they do express it to another man, that guy doesn’t necessarily have the experience or the skill set to give helpful advice.

“Friends and close family members are the people that will make the biggest difference in their lives because they know them the best.

“If we can learn as a community how to help each other a lot better, hopefully we’ll get a healthier community out of that,” Pieter said.

Week one is a hang out time with a basic education session about how men’s bodies work, how smoking affects your body, and how the stomach works to providing energy and healing.

Participants will enjoy a healthy meal to show them that healthy food doesn’t have to be boring.

Week two includes a gym session with local personal trainers and doctors, including a feedback session with stretching.

Pieter’s men’s health night is for up to 15 to 20 people.