The Irish Men’s Sheds Association is an island-wide programme that aims to combat isolation and improve the wellbeing of Ireland’s men.
Based on the original Australian idea, the Irish Men’s Sheds Association encourages communities to develop their own safe haven, where men of all ages and walks of life can come to an informal meeting where skills are developed, shared and learned, and social connections are created.
The workshops can cover anything from woodwork, metalwork, crafts, gardening, art, or even choir groups. Men can visit their local ‘shed’ once or twice a week even for a cup of tea, their site explains. In a world where men’s mental health has been overlooked, the need for a place where men can express their thoughts with people who understand is badly needed.
There are around 350 sheds so far across the Republic and North of Ireland, and Edel Byrne from the association says that this reaches about 10,000 men. Edel is the Health and Wellbeing Coordinator for the programme. As a non-commercial association, she explains that it provides help to those wanting to co-ordinate their own sheds while allowing the individual groups to have full autonomy over their chosen activities.
Each shed is tailor-made to suit the men that attend the workshops, meet-ups, and hang outs. They can be located in family resource centres or other local buildings. If there isn’t one near you, you’re welcome to get involved and set up your own Men’s Shed! However, as Edel points out, the association tries to limit the sheds to one in every radius of 9 miles to ensure each group has a fair attendance.
On the Irish association’s website, there is an excellent quote from Professor Barry Golding of the University of Ballarat, Victoria and Patron of the Australian Men’s Sheds Association made in 2007:
‘Men don’t talk face to face; they talk shoulder to shoulder.’
This quote is as striking and meaningful today as it ever was. For rural men and farmers in particular, the chance to open up and have a chat with others in a relaxed environment can be hard to come by. Sometimes it can be hard to go to a friend and look them in eye when you tell them you’re struggling. We wish that it wasn’t this way, but the sad reality is that it is. Sometimes, men can find it easier to talk about themselves and their thoughts in a more informal environment, while participating in a physical activity or joining in small talk.
In Mayo for example, there are several sheds spread right across the county. There are sheds in Ballyhaunis, Claremorris, Kiltimagh, Castlebar, Ballinrobe and Westport to name but a few. In fact, a quick look at this map will show you that nearly every town in rural Ireland has a Men’s Shed! Dublin also has a huge number of groups that are operating sheds. Find one near you on the map below:
Lead photo via Irish Men's Sheds online gallery.