GOTCHA4LIFE - ORIGIN

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At under-eights footy matches all over the country you will regularly hear adults berating little boys with what we now know to be long-gone era advice like: “don’t be a sook”, “harden up princess” and “boys don’t cry”. This is what we have been teaching our boys forever, so we shouldn’t be surprised when our boys grow up to be emotionally repressed men who struggle with their feelings and day-to-day mental health.

We see everyday that Australian men generally aren’t great at opening up and sharing how they feel. Over centuries society has ingrained in our boys that they need to be tough, to keep emotions in check, not talk about their problems and certainly not cry! It is still seen as a sign of weakness to reach out to someone for help. This emotional restriction dictates to boys – who grow up to be men – that it’s somehow uncool to speak from the heart and talk about their feelings.

Most people agree they want to raise boys into happy, well-adjusted young men. So why do we immerse those kids in an outdated version of masculinity that has contributed to a men’s mental health crisis in this country?

Gus Worland is deeply invested in doing whatever is needed to address current staggering statistics and see that males in Australia don’t get so down they give up. He says it is time we ditched such outdated and unhealthy approaches and start encouraging boys that it’s ok to show their emotions. The earlier we address this attitude with our youngsters the better. It is important to get to the boys as young as possible to change those unattractive behaviours we need to lose. Gus wants men to know that they can reach out and let good mates in to help. He has come to see vulnerability as power.

When Gus lost his own lifelong mentor and close friend Angus Roberts to suicide, Gus’s world was well and truly rocked. He was absolutely devastated, he had no idea he was battling.  He could just not make sense of why this legend of a man, who had worked so hard to get where he was, who had been a fulfilled family man and a motivating leader to many teams he led in his work place. It took ages for Gus to come to terms with his friend’s suicide and when he was approached to be involved with the ABC-TV documentary series titled “Man Up” he got the chance to really confront the inner silence that had surrounded his loss.

As the most recent investigation into current thinking about men’s mental health, the documentary highlighted that stoicism and isolation make lonely mates of too many men. It reinforced awareness of the damage caused by not reaching out and making meaningful social connections. The audience really identified with Gus not only through his role as radio host, TV presenter and family man, but also because of his larger-than-life personality. This was evident throughout the documentary and continues to resonate in all the work he does now off camera.

Gus wants to continue to make a difference with a goal to reduce the alarming numbers of men choosing to take their own lives. The whole process was a massive eye opener. He received over 10,000 letters and emails from people moved by the program and this compelled Gus to not only raise awareness and build upon the positive experiences explored during filming, but to also drive action towards improving the mental health of men and boys and save lives through forging better connections with friends, family and community. He wants to change what are considered acceptable and expected male behaviours and ultimately guide males on how to act and react for themselves.

So, over many morning coffees at a local café, Gotcha4Life was born. Gus joined forces with Gareth Pike and Mike Charter, both professional and experienced corporate entrepreneurs and successful business owners with a strong passion to make a difference in men’s mental health.

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Gareth and Mike were already working in mental health filming a documentary with Gus titled “How Can It Be?” This looked at how DNA affects our physical and mental health. This combined with the devastating loss of a close friend who took their life suddenly that year stirred a huge urge to want to take action, to make something happen.

All three want to enable men to recognise societal pressures to repress their emotions and above all remain stoic. They want to challenge conventional attitudes that force men and boys to suppress negative emotions and try to deal with problems alone. They want help empower males with key strategies and messages to show them that they can examine emotional health and redefine their help-seeking. They want boys and men to see that reaching out for emotional support can mean taking control and not signal any weakness.

As the conversation around the Foundation developed and its mission was mapped out, the boys noted how often the familiar and reassuring term ‘gotcha’ came up. They wanted a term that summed up what it means to really understand someone and to support them for the long term. Simply, we’ve got you for life. From this Gotcha4Life became the Foundation name capturing the importance of all males in Australia finding and fully appreciating a great mate for life - a true Gotcha4Life mate - can only be a positive move for men in Australia. Someone who has your back. The goal the three friends set was that whatever program or venture they developed would encourage all males around Australia to first know what a Gotcha4Life mate can be and then find a Gotcha4Life mate of their own.

A Gotcha4Life mate can be a man’s best friend.