3 March 2020

‘We don’t just talk about footy and stuff’: The Men’s Table launches in Sydney

Fast-growing men’s support group and mental health initiative The Men’s Table has officially launched with a 200-strong celebration in Sydney on Thursday night. Men and women from throughout regional and metropolitan NSW packed out the event at Hall & Wilcox’s Kent Street office.

What started when 12 men shared a meal and conversation in a private room in a restaurant in Surry Hills in 2011 has now become a much larger initiative, encouraged by the National Mental Health Commission.

Co-founders Ben Hughes and David Pointon say the organisation ‘creates a unique environment for men to share openly about their lives, their challenges, their highs and lows with a group of men who they learn to trust and respect.

‘The Men’s Table creates a sense of belonging, community, peer support and camaraderie that is lacking for many men, even for some who already have a group of mates,’ Ben and David explain.

Fifteen Tables are now up and running, with another five due to start by mid-2020. Nearly nine years after the first Table (now called MT1) started, 11 of the original 12 men are still meeting on the third Wednesday of every month.

What makes this work?

‘We can talk about how we feel,’ Ben says. ‘You have a group of men around you who can support you. Otherwise, you can often feel isolated. One of the biggest things we find with men is this – there’s loneliness. There’s isolation.’ Ben says this might start with men who have recently become new fathers, and it goes all the way through to retirees.

The founders soon realised they were onto something. So they asked the men from the founding Table, ‘What makes this work?’

The result was what they called ‘the fundamentals’, which are guidelines for how Tables operate. Principles like ‘don’t be an alpha male’, ‘no politics’, ‘no religion’. ‘Turn up to nine of the 12 weeks, and turn up on time.’ ‘Talk from your heart, not from your head.’ ‘Don’t try to fix things.’

No judgement, no ‘fixing’

Speaking at the launch party, André Alphonso from Hills District Men’s Table (MT7) said he now has a community ‘where people listen to you without distancing and judging you’. He spoke about the difference between just being ‘supportive’ and actively ‘supporting’ others and having them support you.

André shared a story about how listening without fixing has genuinely improved the quality of his communication and strengthened his relationships with his family, not just with the other men on his Table.

Getting involved

Food is a simple but important part of The Men’s Table. Co-founders Ben and David say conversation is much better over a meal.

The only cost to the men on each Table is the price of a meal and a drink. They don’t charge a membership fee, and this allows them to open up Tables in any town, suburb or city, including in lower socio-economic areas.

‘The best way for men to find out how it all works’ said David ‘is to come to one of our Entreé events. At the end of the night, men can then make an informed choice about whether they’d like to join a Table in their local area, or maybe even start a new one’.