Blue Room a safe space to 'vent'

Michael Stewart, president of BMEN, a men's rights activist group, speaks at the opening of the Blue Room Clinic on Tuesday at Fort Street, Scarborough.  - DAVID REID
Michael Stewart, president of BMEN, a men's rights activist group, speaks at the opening of the Blue Room Clinic on Tuesday at Fort Street, Scarborough. - DAVID REID

Caribbean co-ordinator, International Men's Day and BMEN president Michael Stewart is hoping the new Men's Health and Wellness Blue Room Clinic will be a safe haven for men to air their feelings, exchange ideas and get health advice.

Stewart said where discussions on specific topics require a broader look, he is hoping to do live streaming with audiences.

Speaking to reporters after the commissioning of the facility on Tuesday at Fort King George, Scarborough, Stewart said live streaming would allow women to partake in the discussions.

"In some of those cases, we will like to have women coming in on the discussion as we talk about gender and equality issues, roles and functions in the home and be able to go into a healthy debate with the women on some of these topics," he said.

BMEN, a non-profit organisation dedicated to the upliftment of men, partnered with the Division of Health, Wellness and Family Development, the National Union of Government and Federated Workers Union and the Tobago Regional Health Authority, to launch the Blue Room Clinic.

Asked about BMEN's role in the Blue Room, Stewart said while the Division will supply the clinical services, through doctors, nurses and support staff, to carry out the screenings for cancers and other medical conditions, his organisation will address the "softer" aspects of the collaboration.

"We would sit down with men and talk about some of our issues: relationship issues, anger, depression and erectile dysfunction."

He added: "It gives us a chance to be able to vent feelings as though we are disconnected from our families. There are men who have gone to court, been put out of their homes and they want somebody to talk to."

Stewart said they are hoping that an exercise room will be established "to encourage men to come together in a social space rather than in a formal, sit-down session."

Stewart, a prostate cancer survivor, urged men to get tested as it is a matter of life and death.

He said several members of his family, including his mother, grandfather and aunt, died from cancer. Stewart said he even has a brother who was diagnosed with breast cancer.

"So, this, for me, is a very serious matter," he said.

Stewart praised Carrington for steering the process.

He recalled he was hesitant about approaching her about the need to have a space dedicated to men's health and other issues.

"Usually, when you raise issues about men, it is really trivialised and people don't really act upon it. But, I approached her at Pigeon Point and I said to her, one in seven women would be diagnosed with breast cancer and one in four men would be diagnosed with prostate cancer."

Stewart said Carrington, on hearing the alarming statistics, agreed to meet and discuss the issue further.

"What that lead to was our first conference with the Division of Health Wellness and Family Development at the Shaw Park Complex and about 100 men attended."

The father of three added: "That, for us, was a red letter day because the men came out and we shared our experiences. "


"Blue Room a safe space to 'vent'"

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