Entertainment Celebrity How a 19th-century poem is helping men’s mental health

How a 19th-century poem is helping men’s mental health

IF project contributors Jack Thompson, Clinton Hoffman and Barry Hogg
IF project contributors Jack Thompson, Clinton Hoffman and Barry Hogg. Photo: ABC
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The voice of Australian actor Jack Thompson and an animation of a 19th-century poem are the latest tools being used to get men to open up about mental health.

Darwin entrepreneur Clinton Hoffmann has created a self-help guide for men based on Rudyard Kipling’s 1895 poem, If.

Its narrator, Jack Thompson, believes Kipling’s poem had the power to touch men’s hearts and the IF Project has the potential to save lives.

“I really believe that it can reduce the suicide rate,” he said.

“There are certain fundamental universals and that poem is a real list of them, man-to-man, man-to-son, friend-to-friend.

“When you touch those it’s like an emotional and intellectual touchstone – there’s something there for you to really talk about, usually something that you haven’t talked about.”

Project began after friend died

Getting men to talk is the idea behind the IF Project, which also includes an app currently in the development process.

It all started when one of Mr Hoffman’s best mate – known as “Twinkles” – committed suicide last year.

At the 43-year-old’s funeral Mr Hoffman looked into the haunted eyes of the other men present and decided more resources were needed to help them.

“We need to have a first response and have men able to access content and digital media in their own homes, in their introverted states,” he said.

Sometimes seeking professional help is too big a step, he said.

So the Darwin accountant turned to a favourite poem, one he had first been given by a mate who pulled the tattered copy written by his father from his wallet, saying, “this is yours”.

The well-known stanzas revolve around a father telling a son how to be a man.

“I thought wow, I’ve got a very good framework to look at the ifs and build my content around the how,” Mr Hoffmann said.

The ‘how’ is based on the teaching of a life coach Mr Hoffman and Thompson have both worked with for years.

Barry Hogg, a co-founder of Gold Coast health retreat Camp Eden’s wellness program, said it was important men start more meaningful conversations with other men to put their problems in perspective.

“To have some understanding of I’m not crazy, I’m not defective, I’m not flawed, other men are going through these similar things,” Mr Hogg said.

All three creators hope the IF Guide and animation will help men everywhere process and talk about their problems.