Australian men find solace in a shed

Australia has come up with a novel weapon in the fight against high rates of male suicide and depression - a variation on the humble shed.

The Men's Shed movement is booming in disused warehouses and other suburban buildings, which are being transformed into havens for mostly older men to socialise. At the last count there were 216 of them around the country and more are on the way.

Perched in between native bushland and a busy railway line is the North Sydney shed. The former scouts' hall is a fully equipped workshop. It hums with activity and a fair dose of cheeky Aussie humour.

"We talk about all sorts of things - from cake recipes to sex - so we cover a wide field," said supervisor John Marlin, a kind-hearted bear of a man who is in his early 70s. Supporters have insisted the workshops are a breakthrough in men's health as the informal atmosphere is encouraging them to talk more about their problems - such as depression and loneliness.

"Until I found this place I didn't realise how far I was going down," explained 80-year-old Kevin Hardacre, who was busy making environmentally-sound bird boxes.

"By being here you suddenly lift your mind up and you get better social interaction. Life becomes more funny," he said.

"Most members here are refugees from something - refugees from their own fears and frustrations."

Source - BBC