The words “men” and “meditation” don’t usually go hand-in-hand.
But, Eleebana’s Scott Mitcherson is hoping to change that – all in the name of mental health.
He’s introduced two initiatives, Making Meditation Mainstream (MMM) and Meditation for Men (MFM), to the Newcastle and Lake Macquarie areas, with a goal to eventually extend those programs further up the valley.
MMM and MFM originated on the northern beaches of Sydney by founder Jason Partington in 2019 in response to a growing suicide rate in the region.
And, due to its success, including Mr Mitcherson’s own transformation, the Novocastrian’s now keen to save lives in the Hunter, too.
“There were about 33 people, in 2018, who took their lives off the cliff at Avalon,” he said.
“So, a mate of mine (Jason) started the movement.
“It’s a not-for-profit charity.
“He began there [at Avalon]: one man, one flag on the beach.
“Soon after, other people joined him – and everything’s taken off from that point.”
Since December 2019, MMM has provided free meditation at Dixon Park Beach every weekend, thanks mainly to Mr Mitcherson’s hard work.
“I was searching for some wellbeing, mental health initiatives for myself,” he said.
“I began looking at meditation and came across MMM on a podcast I heard.
“I rang Jason, travelled to Sydney, and joined them at Avalon.
“It was nice and cool – a six-degree winter morning.
“But, I really got into it.
“That’s when I decided to bring it to Newcastle.
“So, I kicked off MMM [here] at Dixon Park – and it’s been going for about 16 months.
“It’s continually growing, especially lately.
“In 2021, there’s been a lot more newcomers join us to meditate on the beach at 6.30am on a Saturday.
“It has a real community feel to it.
“It’s not just meditation; it’s coffee and connection [afterwards].
“As we say, ‘we get up early Saturday mornings to save lives’.
“Now, we are training people to help themselves and the loved ones around them to lead a more calm, connected and conquering life.”
Mr Mitcherson said it was important to break the stereotypes usually associated with suicide, mental health and disengagement.
“That’s why we’ve got Making Meditation Mainstream,” the former Kotara High School student explained.
“And, it’s not just for men, but also families, parents and children – it’s for everyone.
“We’re normalising it, demystifying it and taking the stigma out of it.
“We are making it mainstream.
“Just come along, listen to the waves, close your eyes and chill out.
“There’s no excuse not to participate; we’re there rain, hail or shine.
“We have access to the Dixon Park Surf Life Saving Club as well, so if it’s pelting down rain, we can go inside.
“Sometimes, if it’s light drizzle, it’s nice to be out in the environment.
“However, on a perfect day, everyone can sit on the beach and enjoy the sunrise.”
The other program, Meditation for Men, is an offshoot of MMM.
It’s an initiative to assist guys learn tools for life, which bring calm, connection and help them conquer their challenges.
“We look at self-awareness and how to better their relationships with themselves, their family and community,” Mr Mitcherson said.
“The guys are there to support each other, too.
“The course is one night per week, from 7pm to 9pm, for five weeks.
“But, these men form lifelong friendships – they get together every fortnight afterwards, either face-to-face or on Zoom.
“If you’ve had a hard day, or week, at work or something else is troubling you, it’s a safe place where we can share our thoughts.
“Also, it’s where blokes who may have been in a similar situation have a strategy or can give advice about who to see if it’s serious enough.
“It is just about camaraderie and mateship.
“It’s not a counselling or advisory service; it’s a support group.
“However, there’s no greater need for these programs than right now.
“Meditation for Men provides funds as well to the non-for-profit charity, Making Meditation Mainstream, who in turn provides Lifeline with donations.
“Lat year, we gave $30,000, with bigger plans in 2021.”
The next MFM course starts on Monday 12 April.
If you’d like further information, phone Scott Mitcherson on 0459 555 530.