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Case Studies

Counselling

Menslink counselling gets a young man back to school, away from crime and into a winning frame of mind

After getting into trouble for stealing a car and not attending class, Joe was referred to our counsellor by his school youth worker.

His future was looking uncertain and it seemed he was on his way to dropping out of school and living a life of crime.

While Joe lives at home with both Mum and Dad, who are now very supportive, he used to feel that his aboriginal background had him on the back foot all the time. In his words, he felt that he had “tarnished name before I’d even done anything”.

He also struggled with getting positive role models in his life as many members of his extended family are heavy drug users, so not all of them provide him with the support and encouragement he wants.

After getting into trouble with the police for stealing the car, Joe realised he didn’t really like the type of person he was becoming, wagging school and doing stupid stuff like stealing every day, so he decided to give counselling a go, even though he initially doubted it would be right for him.

But things turned out positively for Joe. He said that the counsellor really helped him with getting his life back on track.

“He helped every step of the way. He didn’t judge me and wasn’t there to get me into trouble like everyone else did. He was actually there to help”.

The counsellor helped Joe to focus on the positive steps he could take to make things better for himself and his family.Joe said it was the simple things that began to turn his life around such as being asked to write down eight things that he’d done in the last week, no matter how small, to change himself.

And speaking separately with Joe, Dad was something else that the counsellor was able to do. This helped Joe’s Dad see the things Joe was working on and allowed them both to find some middle ground between them. Importantly, both father and son could work on some simple steps to avoid arguments turning into full-blown fights.

As a result, Joe says “My relationship with my Dad has never been better. I now have a really co-operative relationship with both Mum and Dad”.

So what else changed for Joe?

He stopped hanging out with his previous mates and got in with a better crowd. He went back to school. He picked up two part-time jobs to pay the bills and prepare him for working life after he graduates. Joe also got back into competitive sports and has recently represented the ACT in an interstate competition.

Joe told us that he doesn’t know what he would have done without seeing a counsellor. His advice to any young bloke that is having hassles in their life is “Don’t just sit there thinking about it. Give it a go. Even if it doesn’t work for you, at least you tried”.

For Joe, he is feeling great about himself. He is getting positive feedback from his parents, his school and his employers and he is a successful athlete again. Life’s got a good future.

All names and some identifying details have been changed to protect confidentiality. For more information on our counselling program, click here

Menslink counselling assists a young man find the insight to change, rebuild relationships and achieve some goals

Paul came to see our counsellor to see if he could help him to get up to go to school. “I’m just not motivated, I can’t get into it” Paul said.

Paul was an OK student, but he just didn’t get there often. This was now a problem for Paul as his teachers had given Paul an ultimatum: no school no Year Twelve. This was in fact the motivation Paul needed to do something different and the first step was to see our counsellor.

After meeting Paul our counsellor asked Paul “What would be a sign to you that coming to see me has been helpful?”

“I would start thinking that school is the most important thing I need to do now” Paul replied.

He then asked Paul how thinking school was really important would make a difference to him. Paul had to think and eventually said “I wouldn’t be quarreling and arguing about school with my parents, and my parents might even talk about something else like fun stuff, like football”

When asked how that might make a difference, Paul said “I would be more willing to get up on schooldays because I might feel I can talk to Dad sometimes and that I don’t have to argue with him all the time. Dad has some good ideas even though he supports the wrong team”.

Eventually this kind of collaborative conversation led Paul to recognise, distinguish and appreciate how things will be better if only he makes the effort to do something differently and see if it works.

Paul tried a few things and found that something as simple as having a shower in the morning really changed things. He also started going to the footy with Dad. Even though they barracked for different teams, they found a common bond and Paul found it was OK to argue the point.

Through the shared experience of football with his dad and using the counsellor as a sounding board, Paul was able to learn social skills like constructive criticism, listening, negotiating, saying sorry, asking for help, compromising, choosing appropriate friends and accepting decisions of authority.

Paul started going to school regularly again. He got into Year 12. Importantly, he and his Dad started to have fun again. They used football to develop a new, more mature form of bond between them.

All names and some identifying details have been changed to protect confidentiality. For more information on our counselling program, click here

Mentoring

Long term mentoring relationship reduces social isolation and assists in dealing with depression

Vicki, a single mum, approached Menslink to see if they could help with her son who, at age eighteen, had suffered from severe depression for a number of years. Michael, her son, had no real social life, no older male to talk to or confide in and had struggled through high school and college.

When interviewed for the program, Michael told us that a mentor would help me get out to do things socially” while his mum said mentoring would provide him with the opportunity to do “guy things” and be “more comfortable with men in general.”

At the same time, Jay approached us with a view to giving back to the community, now that his children were all fully grown. Jay had worked with young men in his work and had found his mentoring role there very rewarding.

Michael continued to struggle with depression and shyness throughout his time with Menslink. His mentor, Jay, recognized this early and has been very understanding when organising to go on our group activities, such as kayaking, mini golf or movie nights.

Before the match, Michael had a hard time getting through school and was at a bit of a loose end. Through regular contact and encouragement from his mentor Jay, Michael discovered a love of photography and pursued a course in photography at University. He has since graduated and published a book on photography, which is an outstanding achievement.

The relationship between Jay and Michael is now about four years’ old. While Menslink no longer actively case manages the relationship, the two of them still maintain consistent contact and have a healthy respect for each other. We suspect and hope this may be a lifelong friendship that will reward both of them throughout their lives.

This relationship has worked exceptionally well. Jay was realistic about what a mentor had to offer – neither trying to “save” someone or becoming a father substitute. He was able to give his time and be a positive role model. Jay knows that sometimes the most appropriate thing to say is nothing, as long as the young guy knows you are there, in his corner.

Michael has responded very well to the mentoring program. He is still shy, but has changed in a very positive way, with a lot more direction in his life and is far more confident when speaking with people.

Michael’s mum Vicki is also very pleased with his involvement with Menslink. She has seen a great change in Michael and is very thankful that Jay was able to be with him through his periods of depression and see it through.

All names and some identifying details have been changed to protect confidentiality. For more information on our mentoring program, click here

Young man builds self-esteem, finishes school and steers away from crime with help from his mentor

Two teenage brothers, Rico and Sebastian (Seb), were referred to the Menslink by a counsellor at another youth service, who believed they would benefit from our mentoring program. They had recently moved to Canberra to live with their aunt and lacked a positive male role model in their lives. Difficulties at school and minor crimes were clear signs this void needed to be filled.

While the eldest brother Seb decided the program was not for him, the younger brother Rico was clearly interested. Rico signed up by himself, which was an important step for him, given that Seb’s opinion held considerable sway with him.

At the same time Andrew was introduced to Menslink through a friend who was already involved with a similar program. During the matching process, Rico selected Andrew as his preferred mentor. For Andrew, it was interesting and enlightening to learn more about the cultural traits that Rico had developed being Australian born to immigrant parents.

Andrew soon discovered Rico was very influenced by his older brother who maintained some quite negative attitudes towards life and some of the things Rico was involved with. Andrew found that it was necessary to befriend both young men and to suggest to them both how much better it could be if they went for some positive reinforcement instead.

When Andrew spent some time with the young guys’ extended family, he noticed many derisive comments were being directed at the kids for their perceived failures, with very little recognition of any good results or achievements. For example, to demonstrate how one of the boys was unlikely to get anywhere in his life, the family highlighted one isolated ill-disciplined action away from school, overshadowing all his good scholarly efforts at school. The boys were also played off against each other.

Andrew resolved to show both Rico and Seb that encouragement and support for each other would be a reward in itself for them. Although he would never tell them they had unwittingly adopted the poor example of their older family members, he was determined to steer them away from that practice. In doing this, Andrew also felt that he was improving his own ability at giving praise and reassurance to others in his life.

Ultimately, after two years’ mentoring, some promising signs are apparent. Rico is more relaxed in Andrew’s company and more open to the idea that something good to say about someone is better than something bad. Seb is still in his life as his brother but perhaps not so much as a defining influence. Rico is becoming his own man and making his own decisions, and is not afraid to ask for advice when doing so. He is being thoughtful and discerning, rather than reactionary and destructive, which will lead to him developing the skills and strength of character to say no to negative influences. Importantly, Rico now has a job after successfully graduating from Year 12 and there are no signs he is involved in any criminal activity.

All names and some identifying details have been changed to protect confidentiality. For more information on our mentoring program, click here

Long term mentoring relationship provides positive role-model and boosts self-esteem

Roy, a young man aged fourteen, had been seeing our counsellor for about six months when they agreed that he might benefit from having an adult mentor in his life. Roy’s parents were separated when Roy was little, with his dad moving interstate and having little or any contact with his son.

Roy and his mum both agreed that, being a single mum, there were issues Roy was dealing with that she couldn’t help with and also that Roy could benefit from learning – from an adult male – what it was to be a man. He needed a role model to look up to.

At the same time, potential volunteer John approached us after conducting some internet research, as he wanted to “give back to the community and loved to engage with people.” John appeared to have a good understanding of mentoring. In his words, “mentors provide support and understanding, being a good role model whilst maintaining the relationship through a consistent presence.” After an extensive interview, training and matching program, John was accepted into the program and matched with Roy.

Roy and John became excellent, enthusiastic participants in the Mentors program, regularly attending events together and helping out whenever they could. They also catch up with each other on a one on one basis. Roy has been invited to come to John’s family events and John to Roy’s so they feel like they are both part of an extended family.

John encouraged Roy to attend school regularly and assisted him with work placements – initially through the Spice program at school and later through an apprenticeship. There have been challenges in the relationship but John has supported Roy through some hard times and they see each other as good friends. Now after more than three years, Roy says that John has provided him a role model that he never had before; “someone to look up to.” In the time he has engaged with Menslink, Roy has absolutely blossomed in self-esteem and confidence. He still attends events and really engages and helps out.

As Roy’s mum puts it, “we are truly blessed that John is a part of Roy’s life. John never gave up on Roy, even when times were tough. He and the Menslink team have shown Roy that men can be compassionate, caring, supportive and strong. They can commit. I think that Menslink gives isolated kids a safe supportive place to learn how to be a man. They give these kids a go.”

From John’s perspective, mentoring Roy provided greater insights into his own life’s journey and brought him closer to family and friends. “I got a much better understanding of the world around me through having to view things through Roy’s eyes. I really learnt a lot.” John has also forged some lifelong friendships through mentoring – with Roy, his mum, the Menslink team and other mentors. These continue to endure long after John’s formal mentoring relationship had finished.

All names and some identifying details have been changed to protect confidentiality. For more information on our mentoring program, click here

Menslink gets young man back to school and helps his mentor gain confidence

Gabrielle, a single mum, was referred to Menslink by her son’s Year Seven Co-ordinator. Mark had only just turned thirteen, was being bullied at school and was starting to skip classes and not turn up to school at all.

Gabrielle had tried to engage Mark’s father and had organized a few re-unions between them, but these had ended disastrously; so much so that Mark refused to see his father again. Gabrielle had tried counselling for her son but this had also not worked – the mention of it making Mark run a million miles.

Gabrielle was desperate for something positive to happen to her son.

Mark and Gabrielle came into Menslink to apply for the program and were very enthusiastic about what mentoring could provide. Gabrielle really cared for her son and could see the benefits of a good male role model. Mark told us he wanted a chance to “have another friend”.

At the same time, Scott approached us about becoming a volunteer mentor. He told us he had been quite a wild young man but that this might stand him in good stead as a mentor as he had “been there done that”.

Given his obvious maturity and our sense of his commitment, we thought so too. Importantly, he had a keen sense of what it took to be a mentor; that is to be a trusted friend and guide, not a father and to help, not to train.

Both Mark and Scott were invited to be part of our program and Mark chose Scott to be his mentor.

Right from the start they hit it off. Scott was extremely enthusiastic and his love of the outdoors was matched by Mark’s enthusiasm for getting out and doing stuff. Scott went along to Mark’s sporting activities and immediately recognised that Mark was very physically capable at whatever sport he turned his hand to, but his anger might let him down. So Scott was able to start discussing this with Mark and try to use this energy in a much more positive way.

They’ve been catching up regularly which has been very important to Mark in building his trust in Scott. They’ve been out to a family member’s farm and had a blast doing farm things. Scott has also recognised the importance of keeping clear communication with Gabrielle.

Gabrielle is very happy with the relationship. She said Scott’s ability to show a genuine interest in Mark has had such a good influence on Mark’s life. She said that Scott has helped Mark start attending school on a regular basis and increased his ability to communicate with her in a constructive, positive way. She said that Mark is a different boy since Scott came on the scene.

This match also had a very positive impact on Scott’s life. Being part of a larger community with common goals really helped Scott with his confidence and outlook on life. This in turn led him to pursue some really life-changing career aspirations and achieve what he wanted to in life. His new-found enthusiasm has also rubbed off on our other Menslink mentors and he is a pleasure to be around.

This match has had great results for everyone concerned – young man, mentor and mum.

All names and some identifying details have been changed to protect confidentiality. For more information on our mentoring program, click here

Testimonials

Schools

UC High School reflects on the past year with Menslink

Menslink have been working with our school for the past year.  Our relationship commenced last year when we hosted a Silence is Deadly presentation.  I mentioned in passing to Martin at the time that we didn’t have a counsellor and as such it was difficult to provide some of our boys with the support they needed.  Martin contacted me soon after and mentioned that there was an opportunity for our school to access Menslink’s outreach counselling service.  The Menslink counsellor has become a vital cog in our student support team.  He is here for 90 minutes per week, during which time he sees two students.  This service has had a major positive impact on our students and the boys have been able to adopt very successful strategies and coping mechanisms to allow them to tackle their day to day challenges.  They never refuse the opportunity to see the Menslink counsellor.  Word has travelled fast as to how effective the program is and we are regularly approached by new students who wish to be involved, even though we now have a counsellor two days per week.

One of our students has a Menslink mentor outside school.  His anxiety levels and angry outbursts have noticeably reduced since he started working with his mentor last year.  He openly recognises the positive effect that this relationship has had on his other relationships both at home and with his peers and teachers.

Menslink once again presented Silence is Deadly this week.  The presentation was superb.  The boys were highly engaged and interacted with the presenters throughout the sessions.  We have already noticed an increase in boys approaching members of the student services team to support them with issues that they are facing and have been bottling up.

Menslink is highly valued by our school community.  We see them as a vital service in the ACT.  We have witnessed first-hand the positive impact that they have on young males in the ACT.

Menslink counselling at Gold Creek High School

The Menslink Counselling service delivered to Gold Creek School Senior site is  invaluable.  Many boys  struggle with school in their  teenage years both academically and socially, coping with this is exacerbated for those who are also burdened by a challenging home life.

Depression and risk of self harm is historically high in this age group.  Whilst girls are more likely to self refer to the school counsellor and feel less stigmatised by asking for help, boys invariable have difficulty in this regard.

Having the regular Friday visits to Gold creek by the Menslink counsellor, enables effective planning by  student  services to identify and refer boys in need of professional counselling. Being independent of the school,  is a distinct advantage in relaxing the students and often make it easier for them to speak freely.

Sometimes boys think they don’t have any issues but end up in a long session and surprise themselves,  and with some it takes several visits until they feel ready to sit down and talk, but that’s ok. The patience, compassion and professionalism displayed by the counsellors is something they and Menslink should be justly proud, and something that Gold Creek school is tremendously grateful.

The rapport built with students by Menslink and the subsequent support has seen many positive outcomes this year.  In particular one student had a truly watershed moment in a grieving process that had been unresolved for many years. Albeit a small step it has made a huge difference and this has been heartening for everyone involved.

Menslink’s contribution cannot be understated, not only are they there for the students in need, but also at times find themselves encouraging and supporting staff. They have become an integral member of the Student Services team.

Mount Stromlo principal talks about Silence is Deadly 2014

“…So I was deeply impressed by the way in which your team talked and engaged our boys. It is never easy to hold the concentration span of teenagers for a full hour. Not only did I witness this today, but your team created an atmosphere where all manner of students felt empowered to ask real life situational questions and genuinely sought advice.”

Read the full testimonial letter from Dr Michael Kindler here: Stromlo Reference Letter

Letters of support from schools across Canberra in 2013

Here are a selection of sixteen letters that school principals, youth workers, counsellors and pastoral care executives have written in support of the Menslink Silence is Deadly program

Menslink Silence is Deadly Testimonials 2013

Thank you for coming out and presenting the Silence is Deadly campaign to our male students earlier this month.

In schools, we know that the need for our male students, in particular, to be able to get help from someone who understands both what is going on from them and their reluctance in seeking the help in the first place is vital.  However, it has been often difficult for us to provide this. So often in my time in High schools I have seen Mothers, Grandmothers, Aunts, Female Teachers or Female community workers ask young men the question “Why didn’t you tell me” and not know why the young men have not answered them.

The message that you and the Raiders provided first hand to our young men is invaluable – that it’s OK to have problems in your life but that you need to talk about them to friends, family, teachers and other professionals. Importantly, I think the boys appreciated the message that even strong, successful men have problems from time to time and that they’re not afraid to share their feelings.

We organised this session as a part of our wider mental health program within the school together our mental health ambassadors to assist and encourage young men to come forward with their problems. I believe that the open and accessible format of the program, together with the players support, provided a great platform for our boys to come forward with their issues. The question and answer session in particular was very well received, and we further uncovered a series of potential issues for some of our students.

I believe that a number of our students felt empowered through this session to actively seek help, to start conversations with their mates and the teaching staff, and, importantly, to look out for each other. The session really helped reduce the stigma of mental health issues amongst our young students and I look forward to having Menslink back in our school to run more sessions in future years.

Feedback on the 2013 Silence is Deadly Presentation at Lanyon High School

 The Silence is Deadly Presentation made a huge impression upon our boys. Although they can be a difficult audience to engage, Martin and his co-presenters held them enthralled. At the end of the presentation rather than charging out to push their way to the front of the canteen queue, many the boys lingered talking in quiet, reflective voices to each other. In the days following the presentation a number of boys approached the student services team with concerns. This presentation added another dimension to our school wide approach to student welfare and we would be keen to host a similar event next year.

St. Mary MacKillop College and its students on both campuses have benefited enormously from the involvement and support of Martin Fisk and Menslink.

For one young man who graduated from St. Mary MacKillop’s Year 12 class last year, Menslink provided the affirmation, confidence and life skills to help him complete his schooling and to have a genuine sense of his own worth. That he had actually survived and was positive about his own future was testament to the kindness, skill and perseverance of his Menslink mentors.

From being a student with a long history of poor attendance and minimal engagement with school and peers, he became one of four volunteers who provided food at Year 10 celebrations and took a leading role in the College musical. Without Menslink, this change would not have occurred. We understand that he was later working with Menslink to support other troubled young men like himself….a wonderful tribute to those who have supported him.

Menslink has brought iconic local heroes such as the Canberra Raiders to our College and Year assemblies to speak to hundreds of our boys who are aged from 12-18 years. Menslink has recognised the urgent need in our communities for strong, positive male role models for our young men, many of whom are from single parent households. Boys who are often reluctant to ask questions in such forums, were very keen to raise their hands and ask questions at Menslink assemblies because the best questions earned a Raiders gift from David Shillington or one of the other Raiders present.

Recently, Martin and Shane have spent an hour in consecutive Wednesday Pastoral sessions to speak with Year 10 boys about making Relationships work and the dangers to relationships caused by Pornography. Teachers who attended these sessions commented on the engagement and involvement of the students as they were encouraged to ask honest questions and to be answered with honesty and authenticity.

Some student comments:

“Yeah, that was really good! They told it like it is”

“It was good being just boys so we could ask questions”

“They were honest and didn’t give us any bs”

“Hadn’t really thought about what pornography was really about…learnt a lot”

Menslink has become an integral and welcome support for the young men at St. Mary Mackillop College and the community. We are most grateful for their generous involvement in working with us and our parents to build fine boys into fine men and citizens. Menslink’s work is invaluable to our communities.

Namadgi School commends Menslink on campaign

Namadgi School were pleased to host the official media launch of Menslink and the Canberra Raiders ‘Silence is Deadly’ campaign.  The campaign is designed to reduce the stigma associated with young men getting help for mental health issues.

The launch was highly successful.  We were in regular contact with Martin Fisk and  Ben Triglone of your organisation to ensure that the event ran smoothly and the media component of the session was coordinated and hassle free.  The agenda included; Marty’s presentation, the informal Q & A session with the Raider’s players, the launch of TV advertisement and media promotion with some of our students.

Marty was able to speak frankly and honestly about the importance of mental health for young men and the need for them to have a support network to reach out to. His personal stories and open approach ensured that the boys were engaged and listening. The informal Q & A session from the Raiders players highlighted the need to look out for mates and not be a bystander if something is going wrong. The deep and thoughtful questions that our students asked the players was evidence that their message ‘hit the mark’ – our students shared honestly about their own personal situations.

Our Pastoral Care Coordinator has seen more young men seeking help for depression and anxiety as well as other life issues as a result of this presentation. He believes this is a direct result from the message that it’s ok to speak out if things are not going well for you or a mate.

We believe that the ongoing media campaign has further heightened our students’ awareness of mental health issues and has resulted in a number of young men approaching our Pastoral Care Coordinator and Youth Support Worker to participate in Menslink programs.

We have also had students involved in the mentoring program organised by Menslink. Many of our young men lack direction due to a break down in their relationship with their father, or through not having a significant adult male in their lives. I have been impressed with the generosity of men to help our students in these circumstances though Menslink. The connections made through Menslink have given young men the contact through mentoring not possible in other programs. Thank you for continuing to bring together positive role models with our most vulnerable students.

Mentoring

Young man’s single mum talks about the benefits of mentoring for her son, not just for him but the whole family

Dear Menslink,

My son’s mentor has brought so much into our lives.  My son has become a happier more relaxed and positive person and I see him being much more positive about the future.  His mentor has introduced so many good ideas and values.  Just by being himself and being present as a friend he opened my son’s eyes to lots of good things about life and being a man.  He now has an awareness of the possibilities of the person he can be that he never had before.  The friendship of his mentor has got him through some difficult years where it would have been easy for him to feel very negative.  He’s become a much more wonderful brother to his sisters too.

I feel thankful for my son’s mentor and their friendship every day.  I think his mentor’s personal skill as a mentor was immense and I just wanted you to know that whatever balance he found between giving advice or just leaving things alone, it was perfect.  I  was able to let the mentor know if I was worrying, and I always trusted he would know whether to say anything or not to my son.  Just knowing that his mentor was there, aware and supportive was a tremendous help to me as well as my son.

When the kids are going well we all start to feel a real sense of pride and contentment.  Seeing them grow into happy and well adjusted people is the best thing there is.  The benefits from the mentoring program effects the whole family. We all appreciate one another more, we’re proud of each other and it shows.

So thanks Menslink, for all you’ve done for us

Volunteer reflects on his two year journey as a mentor

Following my recent “graduation”,I want to express my deep appreciation of the outstanding stewardship of the Menslink Mentor Programme shown by you during the two memorable years I have enjoyed as a mentor.

Each and everyone of you have continually demonstrated fine human qualities and outstanding leadership abilities. No matter the need or request, complex or simple, you were always there with understanding, encouragement and active support.

And it is your hands on, practical contribution and dedication that contributes so positively to the Mentor Programme.

I vividly remember your quiet encouragement and guidance in those early days of selection and matching. How you helped us with those “new school, first day” nerves about being up for the task, fitting in and ultimately being matched successfully with a young mentee.

I also remember asking you how to be a good mentor and your simple response was to be myself, be honest and follow my best instincts. Well, it was in fact, that straightforward.

There is no mentor guide book. There is no mentoring formulae. And you don’t attempt to mandate one. I believe the programme is so successful, because it encourages us to use life experience and our best instincts in providing a positive context, challenge and support for the young men in our charge.

I am most pleased that [my mentee] and I will continue with the relationship we have developed and I will enjoy seeing his continuing growth. I have enjoyed every minute of my mentoring experience with the possible exception of the sleeping bags and primitive conditions at our various get togethers.

Not in contention is the fact that I will always count this experience as among the most important personal experiences of my life. I did not think I had it in me. But, you believed I did and, I think you may have been right.
September 2014

For more information, please contact us. All names and some identifying details have been changed to protect confidentiality