Mon, Jun 3, 2024 3:51 PM

Men’s health advocate honoured


Gordon Preece

“Men have always been seen as the perpetrators, not victims.”

Philip Chapman has devoted three decades championing local men’s health and in particular, polishing support for male survivors of sexual abuse.

The Nelsonian was made a Member of the New Zealand Order of Merit in the 2024 King’s Birthday Honours for services to health.

Philip says he was “very grateful” for the nomination by one of the men who had benefitted from his down-to-earth support but was “saddened” that he died just weeks before he could inform him that he’d been recognised.

“John Thorby… he used to come here quite a lot, he hung out with all the streeties,” he says.

“It was a lovely gesture for him to [make the nomination], and I think it says a lot about people’s perception of people on the streets, and how we judge people not knowing their backgrounds and what they’ve been through.

“I was very pleased [to receive the honour], but I’m just so saddened that I can’t tell him that finally, John, you did it mate, you got me a medal.”

Philip says he moved to Nelson close to 50 years ago after working in film, television and theatre both in Auckland and Sydney. He became a psychiatric nurse and went on to manage the Nelson Neighbourhood Centre for ten years, supporting children and their families in difficult times.

The St Vincent St centre was later converted to The Male Room, which focuses on counselling and other support services for men in hardship, including sexual abuse survivors and the homeless.

“Mainly I dealt with men going through separation, crisis, or childhood trauma… it was always a perception that men were mainly perpetrators, but I’ve always worked with males as victims,” he says.

“We work with women as well who are having a rough time, giving out food at lunchtimes for people, and cooking breakfast for all the guys… I’m proud that we’ve set up this place.

“I love being around the street guys, you think you’ve got something going on in your life that’s a bit miffed, and then you listen to their stories of what they’ve been through and you tend to understand why they freak themselves senselessly.”

Philip also succeeded in securing annual funding for The Male Room from the Ministry of Social Development (MSD) for demonstrating that men must be recognised as sexual, physical and emotional abuse victims.

He has also chaired Male Survivors Aotearoa since 2013, which seeks pathways to bring recovery to individuals affected by trauma and has promoted local men’s health with the Movember charity and the Nelson Marlborough DHB.

“I’ve copped some flak for it in the past for standing up for men, but I’m quite happy with copping a bit of flak,” he says.

“Men’s health needs a higher profile because it’s way behind women in so many ways, in terms of suicide, alcohol, addictions, workplace accidents, cancers, and prison.”

Philip was also a community manager of IHC, a board member of Nelson Primary Health Organisation, a consumer board representative on the Federation of Primary Health, a Justice of the Peace, and formerly chaired Nelson and Richmond MenzSheds.

The 76-year-old who had suffered from imposter syndrome and dyslexia and was expelled from school, says his men’s health career had been an “interesting journey”.

While he still thrives in working for the good of men, he says he’ll soon seek “a bit more balance” in his life.

Nelson App is owned by Top South Media. a locally owned media company.