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Young people take part in men’s mental health panel

Wednesday 16 November 2022 | Written by Caleb Fotheringham | Published in Local, National

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Young people take part in men’s mental health panel
Sidney Fimone, 18, who just graduated from Tereora College this month was one of the panellists at the Men’s Mental Health Couch Talk. - 22111416

Societal expectations are holding men back from being vulnerable, says 18-year-old Men’s Mental Health Couch Talk panellist Sidney Fimone.

The “Couch Talk” – a meeting designed to normalise men’s mental health conversations - was held on Friday evening at the Muri Beach Club Hotel.

The event had six speakers, including recently graduated Tereora College student, Fimone, and current student, Ngatupuna Kae (17).

Fimone said men’s mental health was not spoken about often.

“It isn't spoken that much about because of expectations of society and the community on how men are supposed to be, ‘men shouldn't cry, men shouldn't share emotion, boys are supposed to be strong’, it holds them back from making themselves vulnerable,” Fimone told Cook Islands News after the event.

“It keeps them from expressing themselves.”

Fimone said he thought a lot of young men struggled with their mental health in the Cook Islands because it was small.  

“Peer pressure is something very common, they (men) tend to do things to fit in, and no one really talks about it.”

Fimone said he was inspired to a panellist after hearing the speakers at last year’s event.

“To have those older men share those experiences of how they overcame their trauma and became the person they were today was really inspiring, so it's inspired me to go out there and share a bit on my own mental health and thoughts on men's health,” he said.

Fimone said the younger generation were “sort of” talking more about their mental health but said society still made it hard to do so.

The event was run by Cook Islands National Youth Council.

Youth Council spokesperson, Jean Nootai said it was encouraging to have young people talk about their mental health.  

“It was amazing having those young men on there being brave enough to talk about some of the things that they can't talk about,” Nootai said.

“The stigma around mental health is still quite strong here in the Cook Islands, a lot of that really does come from pride not just in our men but also in our women to, so these conversations are really just the starting point to making sure we are all ok, it's not great to hide, we don't have to hide, the community really is as strong as we all are together.

“The support in the community is out there and we are not alone, a lot of that was the theme for the conversations.”

Nootai said around 30 people attended the event.

The other panellists were, Reikorangi Ellison, founder of Movember Cook Islands and The Realist Project, Eddie Rakanui, Wellington based blogger and corporate leadership coach, clinical therapist Dr Evangelene Daniela Wong.