Good practices

Men's Sheds

A 'men's shed' is a community based project, where men can come together to learn, share skills and make long-lasting friendships together.

The mission of Men’s Sheds is to support the development of the burgeoning men’s sheds movement in Ireland. As a grassroots organisation they strive for a future in which all men have the opportunity to maintain and improve their well-being on their own terms and within their own communities. 

The men’s shed movement was first founded in Australia in the 1980’s, and have since expanded to other countries including Ireland, the UK, America, Canada, Iceland and Estonia to name a few.

Ireland has becoming one of the leading nations for men’s sheds in recent years, with Ireland having the most sheds per capita. Currently, there are over 450 sheds in Ireland, with at least 10,000 men visiting a shed every week.

All sheds are independent and self-autonomous, and the range of activities carried out by sheds differ from the next. Most sheds engage in activities such as woodwork, gardening, carpentry and community work. However, there are more special interests sheds that focus on things like music, fishing and restoration work.

A primary objective of a men’s shed is to enhance the wellbeing of men in the community.

When we refer to men’s health within a shed, we’re not referring to a medical model but a holistic model of health encompassing; physical, mental, social and spiritual health. The organic sense of enhanced wellbeing that occurs when a man joins a shed is a no mystery if we really look at what the shed provides for men. Sheds are a home from home for many men that offers social support, a sense of purpose and belonging. All of which have been shown to strengthen our immune systems and improve our health.

Men’s sheds in Ireland are changing the narrative around how men do health. The life expectancy gap between men and women in Ireland remains and men continue to be at a greater risk of certain diseases and conditions. However, an outdated view that men have no interest in their health could not be further from the truth. By the very virtue of joining a Men’s shed, men are taking notice of and playing an active part in maintaining good health and wellbeing.

The Irish Men’s Sheds Association supports sheds to further improve and maintain their wellbeing by offering sheds the opportunity to participate in male tailored programmes and activities within the supportive, informal environment of the shed through the dedicated men’s health programme Sheds for Life.

Sheds for Life (SFL)

SFL is an innovate approach which responds to the increasing call for gender-specific health promotion programmes that target lifestyle and health behaviour change in men.  Sheds for Life is supported by the HSE Healthy Ireland Framework and Healthy Ireland Men 2017 -2021 National Men’s Health Action Plan.

Sheds for Life provide a positive, holistic approach to men’s health that targets aspects of physical, mental, social and spiritual wellbeing by building on the existing health enhancing supportive environment of a men’s shed.

This will be in line with the ethos of men’s sheds, a grassroots approach is applied, placing the men’s needs and views at the core of all associated health promotion activities.

All health-related programmes or activities run under the Sheds for Life umbrella will complement the existing activities or priorities of any shed involved. In line with the foundational ethos of men’s sheds, participation is strictly voluntary, and all programmes must respect the culture and essence of the shed; namely the autonomy and independence of the shed environment.

Year(s): 2011-Present

Target group(s): The main cohort is men predominantly in the 45-64 age bracket

Website or other online channels: https://menssheds.ie/

Methodology

In recent years there has been a growing focus on the issue of men’s health – both physical and mental – in Ireland. Men continue to be at greater risk of a range of diseases and conditions than women, and their life expectancy remains notably shorter – by as much as five years. Men’s sheds are already at the forefront of improving men’s health and wellbeing in Ireland. Men’s sheds have increasingly been recognised as an alternative space supporting the health and wellbeing of Irish men (Department of Health & Children, 2009), and a setting to engage men with holistic health promotion (Cordier & Wilson; 2014; Misan & Sergent, 2009). Very few men attend sheds specifically for health reasons. But a comprehensive survey on men’s sheds in Ireland have revealed; 90% of Irish shedders believe that attending a shed has improved their health and wellbeing (Carragher, 2013).

Sheds provide an environment – different from the workplace, the home and the pub - where men can simply be themselves, where there are no expectations or social pressures.

Lifting those burdens opens the door to better; physical, mental and social wellbeing. Men’s sheds are not health services - they’re not typical clinical or therapeutic settings but they are an inherently health promoting environment. The shed provides opportunities for peer support, group work and bidirectional learning, while also providing an environment which allows an openness in discussion on topics such as health, which men may feel unable to engage with in other settings (MacKensie et al.,2017; Milligan et al., 2013). The importance of striking a balance between an organisations health agenda and respecting the grass roots nature and ethos of a shed is key to effectively engaging with men’s shed members. Health and wellbeing is intrinsically part of the sheds and is perceived as present without the men even thinking about it.

Type of product

Paper-based material Online resource Video clips / Films Course / Training

Brief description of the outcomes

The Irish Men’s Sheds Association’s (IMSA) report entitled ‘The Sheds for Life Impact Report’ was launched virtually, Monday 14 June 2021.

 

The research, carried out by Aisling McGrath of Waterford Institute of Technology on behalf of the IMSA and the Irish Research Council, highlights the benefits of Men’s Sheds for promoting positive wellbeing among Irish men.

 

The report details the many positive health and wellbeing outcomes gained from participation in ‘Sheds for Life’ an initiative delivered directly in the Sheds and in collaboration with men, encouraging them to be active participants taking control over their own health and wellbeing. 

 

The study found that Sheds for Life has been successful in:

Engaging men, an at risk cohort in terms of their health and wellbeing, in a health-promoting initiative and significantly enhancing their willingness to seek help with a reach rate of 73%.

Significantly improving how Shed members rated their health.

Increasing physical activity levels and self-efficacy to be active. Those meeting the physical activity guidelines increasing from 31.2 to 51.5%.

Feelings of life satisfaction and life worth also increased significantly and remained sustained.

Participants reported increases in their mental wellbeing by an average of 17%. The number of men who reported feeling comfortable having a conversation about their mental health also increased significantly by 20%.

Social capital improved significantly with participants reporting increased sense of belonging, close support and trust.

There was also a significant improvement in confidence and skills in relation to maintaining a healthier diet.

The report noted improvements in knowledge and confidence in relation to performing CPR, suicide prevention, getting online and cancer, oral health & diabetes awareness.

Sheds for Life was designed and delivered in collaboration with men and Shed members also reported that it was effective in encouraging more meaningful conversations about health in the Sheds.

 

There were significant changes in knowledge and confidence in areas relating to:

Cancer awareness.

Suicide prevention.

CPR.

Diabetes awareness.

Oral health.

Digital literacy.

The research also highlights the impact that the loss of the Sheds has had on members’ wellbeing during COVID with those describing themselves as lonely at 1.4% prior to shed closures and skyrocketing to 39.2% a year later, emphasising the importance of Men’s Sheds to combat social isolation among Ireland’s men.

Impact on target groups / Transferability potential

The men’s shed movement was first founded in Australia in the 1980’s, and have since expanded to other countries including Ireland, the UK, America, Canada, Iceland and Estonia to name a few.

Promoter of the initiative: irish Men's Sheds Association

Country: Ireland

Languages available: English

Website or other online channels: https://menssheds.ie/

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