15 to 21 June
By David Rickards, Treasurer AEGN
For many of us who struggled with restrictions to visit nature during COVID-19 lockdowns, we know anecdotally that an absence of nature can have a detrimental impact on our mental health.
Since the mid 2000’s Parks Victoria has been investigating the positive effects of being in nature as part of their Healthy Parks Healthy People study with Deakin University. Their studies reference the human ecosystem model used in the Mandala of Health, which takes a holistic view of human health and examines the interaction and importance of mental, physical and spiritual health for our overall wellbeing.
Yet as we enter Men’s Health Week this week, the statistics surrounding the health and wellbeing of Australian males are startling. So what is being done to help and assist males in times of need?
Parks Victoria’s study shows that parks and nature have enormous untapped health potential as they provide an opportunity for people to re-establish and maintain their health in a holistic manner. They also note that major factors of health often have little to do with the health care system, and that public health needs to equally focus on the environmental and social aspects of wellbeing.
To minimise the impacts of COVID-19, the Australian Government has ear marked $74 million to support the health and wellbeing of Australians, partnering with notable organisations such as Beyond Blue and Lifeline to deliver assistance in managing stress and anxiety.
We hope that people will be encouraged to spend more time in nature – something which studies consistently indicate can dramatically enhance your mental health.
As more studies drawing links between mental, physical and spiritual health are published, health professionals around the globe are beginning to understand the connection between safeguarding mental health, our wellbeing and the environment.
As many of our members know, the benefits of funding environmental issues are not strictly limited to the environment. Rather, as we are exploring with our climate lens concept, environmental grantmaking is often intersectional, producing measurable positive outcomes across a broad spectrum of areas. Projects and organisations that support our natural environment, it seems, have strong potential to benefit men’s health in this time of crisis.
For example, funding on Country working opportunities through Indigenous Ranger programs have marked positive impacts on the environment, as well as for Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander men. Land managed through Indigenous land and sea management programs are incredibly healthy and species rich, provide sanctuary for endangered plants and animals and can be used for carbon sequestration, while those who participate in Ranger programs are able to preserve traditional knowledge and culture, maintain a connection with their land and have better health and employment outcomes.
The benefits of programs like this, or others, such as creating urban green spaces, sustainable cities or even helping farmers increase efficiency and reduce environmental impact, are often felt by those directly involved, or those who take advantage of the results. Supporting these projects through environmental philanthropic giving is a fantastic way to not only support the environment but support men’s mental health too.
The ways to get involved with nature are endless, yet one thing is clear: Preserving the planet and taking care of our mental health are one and the same.
More about men’s health
From Beyond Blue
Suicide disproportionately impacts Australian men, with men being three times more likely than women to take their own lives (that is 6.3 men in Australia a day on average). This trend continues in the Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander population, where males accounted for 76.3 per cent of all Indigenous suicide deaths.
A baby boy born today has a life expectancy of 78 years as opposed to 82.3 years for females.
Men are also far less likely to seek help for mental health conditions.
The environmental and psychological factors contributing to the crisis in the mental health and wellbeing of males are incredibly complex, ranging from gender expectations and social pressure to poor coping mechanisms and stigma surrounding reaching out.
David Rickards (Treasurer), Carrawa Foundation
David Rickards is a Trustee of the Carrawa Foundation, which funds environment, Indigenous, education and science initiatives. David was formerly the Head of Research and an Executive Director at Macquarie Bank. He co-founded Social Enterprise Finance Australia (SEFA) five years ago.