THE TEAM: Jean Clayton, Karen Campbell, Lynette Burrell, Emilie Loiseau (front), Andre Richer-Pearce, Vicki Davidson and Dr. James Minson (back).
THE TEAM: Jean Clayton, Karen Campbell, Lynette Burrell, Emilie Loiseau (front), Andre Richer-Pearce, Vicki Davidson and Dr. James Minson (back). Rachel Vercoe

Giving vulnerable males a voice

BEHIND it's humble facade lies stories of hardship that is outside of the realm of what many of us know, and what can be difficult to digest.

Despite the criticism, the eye-rolls and the off-hand remarks for men to 'toughen up', the Men's Resource Centre is taking aim at the enduring stigma and working harder than ever to help vulnerable men in the community with the unveiling of their brand new centre.

"These men are dying by suicide. I'm a mum and I've got to do something, because there are kids as young as 11 thinking of ending their lives,” said Founder and CEO Jean Clayton.

"Talking to the parents who have cut them down is horrendous. That's why we opened up this service, and we work without pay because we need to help these people.”

With the most recent statistics from the ABS showing suicide rates are approximately three times higher in males, the importance of services like these in the community is not unfounded.

The Men's Resource Centre have been running their service for over 13 years now, but after clients were having difficulty accessing the centre they decided to close their doors and are now reopening in Coffs Harbour's city centre.

The centre offers a safe and nurturing environment for men and their families, offering advocacy, counselling and programs and aims to be a first point of contact for those who find themselves in a position of need.

However, the centre is not just for men, but also offers the same services for women in need.

The centre is run by a close-knit team of professionals who work completely voluntarily, including counsellors and psychologists.

Clients are sometimes sent to rehab, and are then encouraged to go on and study for a diploma.

"A lot of our clients have been very successful, having gone on to do diplomas and work with the community which is just brilliant.”

Because they are a charity, the costs associated with running the centre come only from donations, or Jean's pocket.

"The clients were finding it very difficult to get to us. Even though we have free bus travel they would often get off and lose their way,” said Jean.

"So I thought, we're going to have to close the complete service if I can't find a place where people can reach us. We had 2,000 clients in the past, but because of our changed location we only had 600 last year. Now we're starting again- we haven't even opened yet and we've got five new clients.”

At this stage the new centre situated on West High St is a work in progress.

Jean has been working hard to clear out the garage, which will be re-purposed into an eating and hangout area for clients, after it was flooded by recent heavy rainfall.

"We're going to open up and have breakfast in the morning starting in July, if anyone could make any donation it would be absolutely fantastic, whether that be concrete or maybe a workman that wants to help us help our clients.”

The team are crossing their fingers they will receive $260,000 funding from the Attorney General's office in what would be the first time anyone has been paid since starting up.

The Men's Resource Centre is also one of the charities that will receive donations from the C.ex Community Crew Sleepout being held tonight.

"What we're trying to do is get the community to look after a person through us, by helping us help them. You can't just say 'toughen up mate', it just doesn't work,” said Jean.

Visit http://www.mensresource for more information.