Jake's StoryImage by: Movember
31 August 2023

A workshop that changed my life - Jake's SpeakEasy experience

6 minutes read time

Movember SpeakEasy workshops are a celebration of meaningful connection, packed with everyday tools to help build stronger connections with your mates and be there to support them when times get tough.

We spoke to one of our incredible Mo Bros Jake, whose participation in a Movember SpeakEasy workshop served as a catalyst for positive change for his own mental health journey, helping him gain a new understanding for empathy and self-care. Designed for men, SpeakEasy workshops build skills that foster greater social connection, helping friends and family support each other. Jake generously shared with us his aspirations to continue being a part of a much-needed culture change amongst young men, through connection, conversations, and redefining masculinity.

Can you tell us a little about yourself?

I’m a 28-year-old photographer based in Geelong, with a real passion for mental health - specifically, the way in which it impacts the lives of so many of my male peers. I find it fascinating to study the evolving idea of the ‘modern man’ and whatever that entails. After a quarter-life crisis that saw me sink to my lowest, I was diagnosed with depression and generalised anxiety disorder. It was a Movember workshop which was my turning point. The workshop allowed me to articulate my struggles in solidarity with like-minded males. I was able to include my family at the beginning of what turned into the tough journey of self-discovery and self-reflection.

What do you think are some of the challenges facing men and their health today?

The crisis that faces us all, but disproportionately males, is the undoing of generations’ worth of quiet suffering through the avoidance of vulnerability. The challenge will always be in the huge societal effort to redefine masculinity – I don’t even believe it can be defined, at least in a way that can properly encompass the vast scope of it all. A large part of the change will come from what is celebrated amongst the casual conversations. The norm will (hopefully) become a culture of openness and vulnerability daily.

You’ve been involved with Movember for a few years, can you tell us about what Movember means to you and why the Movember message is so important?

Involvement in Movember was the beginning of a massive period of change in my life and I’m eternally grateful for the work they do to change the dialogue around men’s mental health. Movember is literally lifesaving – the message showed me that my story was not only worth sharing, but worth continuing. The conversations elicited from Movember and their events have the potential to save lives.

You attended a Movember SpeakEasy event that changed your life, can you tell us a little about where you were at before the event?

I can quite easily categorise my life into 2 segments – before the Movember event, and after the Movember event. The latter is where I choose to focus my energy and time. I was an angry, confused, and impressionable teenager that lost a sense of self amongst the toxic male cultures that Movember is working to eradicate.

You mentioned that back then, you were in a depressive state - that you didn’t know how to verbalise things. Could you talk a little about that, and why you think men generally have similar experiences?

I feel like I was a product of the negative masculine culture that I chose to engage in. After the event, I experienced a difficult break up from a long-term relationship. There began the ‘depressive state’ I mentioned, best summed up as ‘loneliness’. The feeling of being totally alone in a battle I had no idea how to fight. This period led to the realisation that there is so much power in vulnerability.

Can you tell us about the SpeakEasy event - how you found out about it and what happened?

I remember seeing an ad for a workshop-style event being run by Movember in collaboration with Gus Worland as he toured his ‘Man Up’ series. Without a second thought, I casually messaged my dad, brother, and brother-in-law with a throwaway invite. Little did I know at the time that it was a cry for help from the men around me, in my greatest time of need. I attended and it changed everything for me. Everything.

One memory stands out. There was an exercise where the 100-odd blokes in the room all stood in one long line. We had to stand forward one step from the line if we had cried in the last 12 months – about 90% of us stepped forward. Then another step if we had cried in the last 6 months, and so on until it we reached the last 24 hours. Myself and 2 other blokes were there, my pain and sadness laid bare in front of my closest male family members. I did not dare look back, but I felt my dad’s eyes on me, not to the tune of disappointment but of resolute sympathy. I immediately felt relieved as I had divulged my suffering without the need for the words I could not find.

I think the event meant so much as I finally had a tangible experience of blokes supporting each other emotionally. I had conversations with strangers that ran deeper in 5 minutes than the conversations I’d mustered with lifelong friends to that point. I had also finally found a way (unwittingly) to reach out to my dad for emotional support.

Can you talk about your journey after the event?

Long and difficult! One of my favourite mantras is that there is ‘value in suffering’. I truly live by it now as so many of my successes have come about through suffering in the journey.

With my dad’s support, I was able to go to my GP and blurt out “I’m not mentally ok and I need help”. That was the beginning of my medication and therapy which have both helped immeasurably.

What were the things, the people, or the practises that helped you through your journey?

A healthy mix of therapy from a psychologist, daily self-reflection and medication saw me through the worst of it. I have beautiful friends which I leant on heavily and my incredible parents supported me to no end. Through my cognitive behavioural therapy (CBT) I have been working to ‘rewire’ my automatic neurological responses to things. My main technique has been ‘softening’ my responses and working to employ more curiosity instead of anger. It has helped so much in terms of building in empathy as a coping response to being wrong done by.

How do you feel now, and how has your approach to life changed?

I have a new lease on life! I spend my days grateful for the things I have and thankful the help I have received along the way. I have submitted to living a life with anxiety by my side, but that is not a death sentence. It’s an opportunity for empathy, understanding and the necessary practice of self-care.

What do you know or do now that you wish you knew back then?

That it’s ok to feel something. I have ‘Feel Something’ tattooed on the back of my right arm as a reminder that it’s ok to feel deeply and that strength has come from the admission of hardship.

What is your message when it comes to men’s health?

I implore every man to own their emotions, or at the least begin a study of themselves. I also encourage every man to see a therapist. It’s so accessible in our wonderful country and it is so beneficial to have medical guidance whilst undertaking the most important process of self-reflection and self-improvement. You are not alone – there are resources ready when you are.

Movember SpeakEasy workshops build capacity amongst young men to be able to face everyday challenges and encourage us all to be more open to deal with challenges when they arise in our lives. Everyone goes through tough times, but not everyone knows how to deal with them. SpeakEasy supports help-seeking through changing attitudes and fosters an environment to have confidence in reaching out, sharing your journey, and accessing support and help when you need it.