In this month’s Bear Necessities column, VicBears President Adamm Ferrier explores how bear clubs can combat social isolation

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It’s a tough world out there. Most of us at some point in our lives feel everything is an uphill struggle.

Some [issues] are real, some are minor, while others only exist in our fears.  

It feels worse when we are socially isolated. It feels like we have no-one who will simply listen, to help us explore issues and find solutions from within.  

The bitter pill is that we are at the heart of our problems. Men in our culture are doubly disadvantaged.

First, men are expected to always have solutions rather than problems and so we tend not to share with others.

Second, if someone comes to us with a problem, we tend to fall into solution mode.

Most of us can’t help ourselves. It’s a double-edged sword: we can’t possibly know the full story. And even with the best of intentions, our solutions often don’t address the root problems.  

So, how can you help when someone comes to you?  

Simply listen. Keep their confidence. Ask for clarification. Understand and accept your limitations.  

If they are open to the idea, help them find appropriate help, maybe even offer to go with them.

Social networks are perhaps the most important and ultimately beneficial ‘health’ strategy for all men, regardless of sexual orientation.  

While there are excellent initiatives addressing specific hazards, these tend to focus on preventative mechanics to reduce harms.  

But I would argue that these often don’t address the all too common silent root problems: loneliness and isolation.

There are many reasons I cherish the bear community and admire those who run bear clubs.

For the most part, bears are welcoming in nature. Bear clubs have an intrinsic quality that traditional health services lack: social inclusion, the antidote for loneliness.  

And no doubt someone will say that they once visited XYZ club and didn’t feel better (i.e. the red carpet wasn’t rolled out for them or the BBQ snags weren’t to their liking).  

So, ask not what your bear club can do for you, ask what you can do for your bear club.  

Be active: get involved with your club, volunteer, ask if they need a hand doing things – be part of it.  

Help is always needed, and in giving help you’ll get what you give back in spades. Friendship networks like you wouldn’t believe.

At least, this has been my experience.

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