Celebrating CUC Men and their Learning Journeys #menshealthweek 

By CUC Student Ashley Kirby and Sophie Weathersbee 

Ashley Kirby is studying his Bachelor of Nursing through University of New England. He accesses CUC Goulburn for the dedicated study space, and support from the CUC team. 

Sophie Weathersbee is currently completing her Master of Counselling with Monash University. As a distance education student herself and one of the Learning Skills Advisors at CUC Far West, she knows first-hand the challenges of studying in a regional community. In the final year of High School, Sophie, like many teenagers, struggled with deciding who she wanted to be and what she wanted to do with her life. After taking a gap year, or four, she began study at the University of Wollongong to become a high school teacher with the future aim to do school counselling to help other young people on their journey to ‘find themselves’. Sophie now works in both teaching and wellbeing roles across kindergarten to higher education, including providing support to CUC students through her counselling professional placement. Sophie is passionate about supporting our students to improve their educational, health and wellbeing outcomes. 

Ashley’s story  

Nearly 9 years ago, Ash became an enrolled nurse, and has walked across many specialities, majority in emergency and mental health. Although Ash has had a successful and rewarding career so far, he never had any idea of what he could and has achieved. Ash left school after year 11 and never paid much attention. He says that this is probably due to a touch of ADHD. Nursing, and especially university, was never a thought – only a dream. That was until the day that Ash was offered a paid spot to study Nursing. Since then, Ash has learned that, not only can he study at a university level, but that he deserved to enter university. He has achieved great marks, learnt amazing amounts of knowledge, and gained new skills. I would never look back now. 

 Why did you choose Nursing? 

My desire to help people has always existed, and at a very young age I decided to pursue that desire; to become a nurse. This decision came about when I spent hours upon hours at my uncle’s bedside in hospital after attempting to take his own life. I saw how the nurses and doctors, and other amazing people, looked after him and my family with no judgement, only compassion. They let us stay past visiting hours, they brought us food and they taught us how to laugh and smile again. I entered nursing to do that. 

I want to provide exceptional care, make my patients and their families laugh and smile, and make even just one day that little bit brighter. 

What does Men’s Health Week mean to you? 

I have pink hair at the moment, fundraising for breast cancer with the National Breast Cancer Foundation. My motivation for this is obviously the horrendous toll breast cancer has on people, but also to spread awareness of the high rates of breast cancer found in men. Just like mental health, there is a stigma surrounding men’s health and that speaking up is not “manly”. Two other movements I support are The Black Dog Institute and The Naked Farmer. In Health, we like to promote autonomy, and we also work on building a person’s support system, which is their family and community. 

People have so much strength, imagine how much strength they have if they have their friends and family behind them. It takes a village! 

Have you experienced any challenges in your studies? 

Living regionally has not hindered me but being an online student has. Due to work commitment, I had to study by correspondence, and UNE has by far exceeded their reputation. Being external means you miss out on so much! The on campus tutorial, dissecting, and chemical experience, and the general vibe of uni life. Despite that, UNE offer endless support and embrace the online cohort, making you feel like apart of it all. 

If I didn’t have CUC, I would probably have failed already! I have so much distraction at home, and my local CUC and team are simply the best! 

Do you have anything else you’d like to share? 

Goulburn is surrounded by beautiful lands and awesome people. We have such unique friendliness and with that comes acceptance. 

Don’t ever be afraid to speak about mental health problems, or feel you have to be alone. 

An overview of Men’s Health in Australia 

Australian medical research shows that Australian men experience more death, serious health problems such as disease and illness, and injuries than women. The many reasons attributed to these figures are: higher funding towards women and children’s health; men on average are employed full-time compared to women; risk-taking behaviours are higher among men; men are typically employed in jobs that are considered higher-risk; men are more likely to self-medicate using alcohol and other drugs; stigma associated with “masculinity” and seeking support from health professionals. 

According to the Australian Medical Association  “Australian men are less likely to seek treatment from a general practitioner or other health professional and are less likely to have in place the supports and social connections needed when they experience physical and mental health problems. Compared to women, Australian men not only see their GP less often, but when they do access a health professional it is for shorter consultations, and typically when a condition or illness is advanced”. 

There are many ways that the health experiences of Australian men can be improved. With organisations such as Beyond BlueMensLine AustraliaAustralian Men’s Health Forum the perceptions of male health in Australia is changing. 

For more information about Men’s Health Week, visit: https://www.menshealthweek.org.au/

If you feel like you are experiencing any health issues, below is a list of the resources mentioned above: 

https://www.blackdoginstitute.org.au/  

https://www.beyondblue.org.au/ 

https://www.amhf.org.au/  

https://mensline.org.au/ 

https://www.thenakedfarmerco.com.au/