Anxiety and depression are tough conversations to be had in a man’s world, but personal trainer Arj Perera is hoping his newly-registered fitness charity will get men talking while working work up a sweat.
Writer: Paula Hubert – Photographer: David Field
Arj Perera admits he finds it hard to sit still for too long. Even in a café where he seems to know just about every other customer who walks through the door, the personal trainer fidgets in his seat and downs his long black in two gulps. But there’s one topic that has his undivided attention.
The founder of local gym Human Mechanics has been channelling his energy over the past year into Secret Men’s Business, his new charitable foundation. This is his passion, his baby and his way of reaching out to men battling with anxiety and depression.
It’s a cause close to his heart, having lost a very close friend to suicide in his early 20s.
“I grew up with him. He was a happy guy, great sportsman, academic and well-rounded. No one knew he had bipolar. He was outgoing but you never know what’s brewing under the surface.”
Then last year, another friend ended his life.
“That shook us up. If he’d called we would have dropped everything and gone,” says the 34 year old Sri Lankan who moved to Bendigo from Melbourne three years ago.
He hopes the charitable foundation can ‘do something to prevent it happening again’, but he concedes that men’s mental health is not a sexy subject in the public arena.
“When I was trying to garner support last year, people didn’t want to talk about men’s health. You look at all the fantastic things out there for women’s health and everyone jumps on it.
“What I want to do is create exactly the same support for men’s health. It needs to be done,” he says.
As a personal trainer with over 12 years’ experience, Arj knows that fitness can provide a vital connection for men secretly battling with anxiety, stress and depression.
“This program is so important because there are so many guys out there who don’t have the support or don’t feel that it’s cool enough to ask for help.
“It could be going on as close as next door. I think overall men see themselves as having to be a strong position all of the time. Vulnerability is seen as a weakness.
“You’re allowed to catch up (with other guys) or ask for advice. It’s not less manly. There’s such a bad stigma.”…