The man tackling men’s mental health one snag at a time

Terry Cornick (R) founded Mr Perfect, which hosts barbecues and social meet-ups for men. Source: Supplied

After struggling with a “cold and clinical” therapy environment, Terry founded Mr Perfect, where he hosts barbecues and meet-ups for men. An expert told The Feed mental health services could learn a great deal from the approach.

In his early 20s, Terry Cornick was coming home from work every few months feeling “seriously depressed and suicidal”.

But despite the dark thoughts plaguing him, he put on a “brave face” to get through the working week.

“I was googling symptoms of depression and I remember seeing on my laptop, I ticked six of eight boxes for signs of depression,” Terry told The Feed.

“I thought to myself there was nothing wrong with me because I only had six.”

Terry grew up in a “stoic” British environment where he was accustomed to burying his feelings. 

Feeling like he needed a change in his life, Terry followed his friend to Australia. 

“The first day I was walking around Sydney Harbour and realised that where I was geographically wasn’t going to change everything. I had to change things mentally.”

“[A few years later], I saw my GP and he said, ‘How long have you felt like this?’ And I said, Pretty much forever’’

“His normally cheery expression changed and he said, ‘I think you need to go see someone’.”

Seeing a psychologist helped Terry get things “off his chest” but he found therapy to be “cold and clinical”.

It was that environment that motivated him to start Mr Perfect, an organisation that hosts barbecues and social meet-ups for men to create community and connection. 

The name comes from Terry’s best mate, who called him “Mr Perfect” for years without knowing his mental health struggle.

“A standard psychologist session is the age-old stereotype of sitting on the couch in a closed room and closed space. I don't know if that really works for everyone,” Terry said.

“Ninety per cent of people I've met through Mr Perfect are more than happy to open up and talk about their issues and their troubles, given the right environment.”

mr perfect
The barbecues have been a hit, according to Terry. He said men often feel more comfortable opening up in informal settings.
Supplied
Clinical psychologist, Dr Zac Seidler believes mental services are not meeting the needs of men.

A study in June, supported by men’s health charity Movember, found almost half of those who accessed therapy - or 44 per cent - dropped out prematurely. 

Dr Seidler said mental health services are not designed with men in mind, with waiting rooms often filled with women’s magazines.

“I used to have a pool table in my therapy office because that kind of clinical, really cold environment does not work for guys,” Dr Seidler said.

“It doesn't need to be the same stereotypical therapy that you see on TV, we can do things differently.”

Dr Seidler praised peer-to-peer support networks like Mr Perfect and said there are lessons to be learned from their approach. 

“With my own friends, if we're hiking, playing pool, or we're out and about, that's when you have your most meaningful chats. And that’s why Mr Perfect works so well,” he said.

“The mental health sector needs to stop being so cold and try to warm up to what men need.”

But Terry hasn’t done away with therapy completely. He has since found an “incredible” psychologist that he sees a few times a month for his anxiety. 

For Terry, who is now a father of three sons, it’s important that his children learn to take their own mental health seriously.  

“Being a dad, it’s the most rewarding thing that’s ever happened to me,” he said.

“I'm not religious in any way but I feel like someone has given me three boys and it’s my mission to raise them in a way that is loving and caring, knowing they have all the resources available when they feel upset.”

If you or someone you know is in immediate crisis, please call police and ambulance on 000.

For further help, contact Beyond Blue on 1300 22 4636, or Lifeline on 13 11 14.