I’ve always tried to be an active person, whether it be through football or the gym, but I did find that as you get older, you do start to become less and less active.

A good friend of mine was telling me about the Sons of the West program, as he was having some health issues himself. He said that in his first year he didn’t put in enough time, but he had really hoped to commit more in his second year and encouraged me to come along with him.

I thought to myself, if I go and pick him up every week, that would make sure that he goes. So initially, I thought that I would go as a support for him.

The first day I got there I absolutely loved the program and the people and thought yep, I’m absolutely going to put everything into this.

I really enjoyed my first year here. Not only was I getting some regular exercise, but it also reinforced some things I knew about diet and nutrition.

I found a lot of the guest speakers interesting and it allowed me to get some more information on things that blokes don’t really focus on – things like getting check-ups and looking out for your friends and family.

Sons of the West encouraged me to go and get a check-up. I thought, I’ve never been sick a day in my life, I’ll be fine – I then found out that I had a heart murmur. While it’s not life threatening, if it’s something that I don’t monitor, it could cause problems down the track. I never thought blood tests, prostate checks and things like that were important but now I do those things regularly.

Something else I found really powerful in the program were the sessions on mental health. I’ve been quite fortunate and haven’t been struck too harshly with mental health issues, but one thing I’m really grateful for, was being able to recognise some warning signs in a friend of mine.

One of my friends who had been hit pretty hard with a family tragedy was showing some of the early warning signs of depression that we learnt about in the program. So, I encouraged him to see a GP, and he did. He’s been on top of it ever since and it’s really helped. That’s something I never would have thought about or even noticed before Sons of the West.

One of the great things about the program is seeing how many men eventually open up, because they feel comfortable in the group setting. I don’t think anybody ever leaves the session in a worse mood than when they arrived.

Sons of the West has given me a lot more social and cultural awareness – I think that’s the biggest change I’ve noticed in myself after completing three years of the program.

There’s just so much that is available by getting involved in the program, whether it be for yourself, or for someone else in your life.

If I could give any advice, it would be to come along to Sons of the West and just try it. I guarantee you will find at least one thing helpful, whether it be for yourself, or to help someone else in your life.

This program is so important, and I can’t recommend it enough.