Masculinity expert urges men to train their ’emotional muscle’

Tom Harkin.
Tom Harkin.

AS a teen, Tom Harkin gravitated towards the alpha males of his high school pack.

They were tough, funny, popular with girls – everything Harkin was not.

But he watched his friends flounder when they began to drift out into the world without a solid emotional grounding.

He credits their experiences for leading him into the men’s mental health sphere.

Franklin, who is part of the documentary series Man Up, said the struggles of his friends showed him there was a gap in education for men.

“I’ve worked with a lot of men,” Mr Harkin said.

“I grew up in Frankston, Victoria, a working-class suburb.

“I went to a public school and the hero stereotype of a bloke was to be tough, pick up heaps of chicks, not really have vulnerability or emotion, be able to sort problems with your fists.

“I was failing massively at all of those so I hung around blokes who weren’t failing – they became my mates.

“It worked really well for them at 14, 15, 16.

“But then I saw going really bad for them – the battles they’ve now got with custody, substances.”

Harkin believes there should be more onus on schools to equip boys with the emotional tools they need to survive.

“The stats are horrific,” he said.

“We need to build the self-efficacy in men in regards to the fact that they are emotional, can handle emotion and have vulnerable, and at times uncomfortable conversations about things that matter.

“We are addressing it – we are talking about mental health among men.

“But in schools we train the brain, we train the body – we don’t train emotional muscle.”

Harkin created a workshop for boys through the Reach Foundation, and this Friday night he’ll be in Perth for an event organised by the Movember Foundation – entitled One Night in Movember (in October).

The event will let guest speakers and audience members have the chance to chat about what it means to be a man in a relaxed, supportive environment.

The Perth event will be held at WACA Stadium on Friday 13 October 2017.

For more information, visit the Movember website

Readers seeking support and information about depression can contact Lifeline on 13 11 14.