Alcoholism and sexual abuse are among the grim experiences contributing to mental health problems for young Cook Islands men.
Twenty-eight-year-old businessman Reikorangi Ellison is one of a group of friends whose eyes have been opened to these concerns in the community – and they’re determined to step up and make a difference.
Ellison says mental health challenges are common for men, and it is important to know that the healing comes from one’s own self. That means asking for help.
Younger men should be mindful of whom they spend their time with: it is important they hang out with friends who will help them grow and strive for a better future.
This month, Reikorangi Ellison and his friends have set up a Movember group in Cook Islands, and are calling out on all men to grab a mate or a brother and be part of their action to tackle men’s mental health.
Traditionally, the Movember fundraising campaign has focused on getting sponsorship to grow a moustache – and yes, these young men will be doing that, but they are also being flexible with their fundraising ideas.
Tomorrow, they are running “Bro-ga” at The Dome – yoga with your bro at the auditorium, led by well-known local yoga instructor Victoria Dearlove. There is a $10 fee and all funds will be donated to the Creative Centre.
Reikorangi says Bro-ga is expected to help men relax and just encourage each other. “I think the biggest thing is trying to get guys together and encouraging them to sit with your mate and share whatever it is your dealing with in your day to day life.”
Reikorangi Ellison, from Akairo Construction, is joined by his brother Raniera and their mates Luther Berg and Josh Utanga.
The group have organised an event for each week of the month. On the 9th, there will be a Round Raro Brolay, like a relay race where one can walk but wear a costume. November 16 is clean-up day, followed by flash day on the 21st, and finally the Hike and Shave on November 30 at the Beluga Café.
They want to tackle mental health by encouraging men to share their experiences, aiming to help men fight their demons together and encourage one another.
Counsellor Thomas Wynne applauds the men’s initiative.
Movember is a rally cry for men in the Cook Islands to come together and to consider and engage in talking about what is going on for them.
Men are known for coming together, forming a circle and talking about sport, he says. This is similar – but instead it is asking men to talk about what’s going on for them.
“Yes, we live in a culture at the moment that discourages men from talking, we tell our boys to stop crying when they hurt and when they are men and hurting the tears have dried up from years and years of being told it’s not okay to feel, and to hurt, and to be broken.”
“It’s going to take men healing other men and men talking with other men, for change. So let’s get behind Movember community, and let’s support our men, our fathers, brothers, cousins, uncles and grandfathers to grow a moustache or extend the one they have and talk, and in that be the best men they can be.”
* If you need support for yourself or someone you know, you can call the Mental Health team at the Ministry of Health on 20066, or Te Kainga support group on 20162 or 50633.