In December 2022, LG Electronics Australia recognised Tim Hewson in his local NSW community for his ongoing dedication and support for men’s mental health awareness through his organisation, Mongrels Men.
As a man in his late 40s, Tim has experienced how societal pressures can often pigeonhole men into believing their sole purpose is to provide, and that demonstrating certain emotions is considered weak. Working in a demanding corporate job, Tim experienced anxiety and depression, finding it difficult to share his experiences with friends whom he had never had these types of conversations with. These experiences led Tim to establish Mongrels Men. The initiative started out at the grassroots level at Seaforth Football Club and has transformed into an organisation with more than 2,000 mongrels – fostering a connected and supportive community.
We sat down with Tim to learn more about his story and how he has made an impact on his community through Mongrels Men.
LG: What inspired you to give back in your community?
TM: I found multiple light bulb moments throughout my life that led me to create the Mongrels Men initiative. In my early 30s, I buried myself into work as I thought my sole purpose in life was to provide for my family. I worked in a corporate banking corporate job, and as you can imagine, it’s rather time-consuming and demanding. I suffered from anxiety during this time, and in retrospect depression too.
Although I was going through these struggles, I found it hard to expose myself emotionally to a group of close mates that I’d been friends with since high school. The charity really came from a need to provide support for men, families and friends who were impacted by mental health or suicide. My key motivation was the realisation it was the kind of support I needed but struggled with the idea that I would be ‘weak’ for needing this or these types of conversations. When I recognised these same patterns in other men close to me and saw the statistics, it inspired me to give back to the community and create a place for men’s mental health awareness.
LG: How did you come up with the concept?
TM: Mongrels Men is focused on non-clinical and preventative activities to help improve men’s mental and physical health. I came up with this concept back in 2015 when I was first watching my children play sports regularly with a couple of the other dads. I thought that it was strange that we weren’t playing too despite watching our children every week. From there, I initiated a men’s soccer team to get all the dads together, stay active and foster a community.
From 2015-2019, I saw the positive change this had on other men when several guys came up and would thank me for organising the players, saying that they had no other close social connections outside of this team. I decided I needed to do something more serious as it was already having an effect on the community. As I dug into research, I saw recurring patterns with men who did not have social and mental health support. Men tend to open up more when there is a physical activity involved as it creates a less of an awkward and confronting atmosphere. I like to think of mental health being a lot like physical health, where it requires ongoing maintenance and effort to better itself. Therefore, joining these two ideas of physical activity and mental health support made sense.
LG: What results have you achieved so far?
TM: In the past 2.5 years, Mongrels Men has grown from a local and community-based initiative running a few activities a year for other dads on Sydney’s Northern Beaches to a charity approved by ACNC. We are supported by 6 volunteer Community Champions and foster a community of more than 2,000 Mongrels. Every year we facilitate 500 meetups and activities for our community. The transition from ad hoc activities to something more structured, frequent, and local has been rewarding. From this, we’ve been able to create emerging communities of support for men across NSW, where they’ve developed new friendships, created new social connections, and now have men locally they can reach out to.
We encourage hundreds of men to get out of bed/off the couch and outdoors into fresh air, and to be better blokes. In these past few years, we’ve seen the physical transformation and improved mental health of men in our communities firsthand. We’ve witnessed their families telling us that it’s made a difference to them as better men, partners, husbands, fathers, grandfathers, uncles, sons, employers, and employees – but most importantly the men can feel these changes themselves. Individually, they are all better men, but as Mongrels we are collectively stronger as a pack.
LG: Have you come up against any challenges?
TM: Of course. Like many start-up charities, we’ve definitely run into challenges - from additional administration, reporting, compliance, raising awareness and the rising cost of living/interest rates impacting funding. Also, creating a space around what we do and what we’ve started for mental health has been challenging as not many specialise in connection between mental and physical health.
However, our main goal is to have a Community Champion in every postcode in Australia so men have somewhere to go, someone to talk to and to build a community of other men that can connect whenever they need it. As a new and start-up men's mental health charity, it’s all about scale, like finding more volunteer Community Champions who can run events and activities, funding to grow the program, and raising awareness of Mongrels Men.
LG: What’s next for you and your initiative?
TM: Continuing our main objective of bettering mental health is of utmost importance for us. By staying true to our purpose, the growth of our Community Champion program is our primary focus for the next two years. As Mongrels Men grows, we’ve organised many events that weren’t just closed off to men, like International Men’s Day with partners and kids coming along too and witnessing the activities firsthand. We’d love to do more events like this where we are connecting the community and getting more feedback.
The second most important objective is training and education. We would like to conduct more workshops – one being the doghouse event – which is a safe place where we can work with local community groups in halls to run workshops. These will run face to face or virtually and teach men how to communicate better and know what questions to ask each other to get the conversation started. Ultimately, the most important part of building a connection is conversation which will lead to better mental health. Therefore, it’s important for us to guide men to learn to support each other too.
Whilst we are very focused on the mental and physical health of men, where possible we run events for everyone – wives, partners, children, families. This allows everyone to connect on a broader level and also educates the wider circle of Mongrels about what we do. Inclusivity is a core value of ours, so we want to continue to ensure we create opportunities like this moving forward.
LG: What does being named an ‘LG Local Legend’ mean to you?
TM: A lot is the short answer. Of course, my mind immediately went to ‘How can we use this amazing award and prize to help improve awareness of what we do and raise money for the charity?’
It’s such a privilege to do this work and know that the work we do is having an impact on men’s lives. Not only that, but having my passion get recognised further reinforces the fact that people are being positively impacted by our work. It’s really a reminder of why I do it.
It’s so impressive that LG does this kind of stuff. It’s not until we see different organisations uplifting each other that we recognise the true power of community. The recognition from being named a ‘LG Local Legend’ tells us we are on the right track; it gives us a platform to have a conversation and allows us to tell people who we are and what we do. And there is so much more we can do.
As mentioned, we are going to donate the prize pack back to the charity in order to help us raise money that we can invest into our Community Champion programs in 2023.
LG Electronics would like to thank Tim Hewson for all his efforts in creating an initiative that values communication and support for men physically and mentally. For more information about Tim’s charity, visit mongrelsmen.com