Mental health tools of the trade.
For one in five tradies, one of the biggest challenges of the job is finding a way to cope with the mental health condition they will inevitably experience.
While more and more women are finding their way into construction, it is an industry traditionally dominated by male workers. Men, particularly those working in a male dominated workforce like construction, are the least likely to seek help if they are struggling with their mental wellbeing.
For James, a sparky on the Sunshine Coast, putting together his mental health toolkit was a long journey that led to him becoming a regular speaker for mental health organisation Beyond Blue.
“When I first started experiencing anxiety, now that I look back, it’s been with me pretty much my whole life, and it’s just something I’ve come to terms with and dealt with and live with,” said James.
“As far as the depression goes, I’d be constantly tired and I’d have to fight all day just to stay awake and couldn’t concentrate for anything more than two minutes, just a constant feeling of, I suppose worthlessness, I just wanted to shut myself away in a little corner and be on my own and sleep.”
A happily married father of two children, James was in the dark about what was happening to him.
“I happened to come across Man Therapy on Facebook for Beyond Blue, and I thought to myself, okay I will actually answer these questions and I’ll be honest with myself just so that I can rule that (anxiety and depression) out because that’s not what’s wrong with me. And it advised me to seek medical help.”
James took the advice and booked an appointment with his GP.
Facing up to the stigma and the self-stigma was a big part of helping James rediscover his best possible mental health.
“I’m the bloke, I’ve got to be there for my family, I’ve got to be the breadwinner, I’ve got to be strong, I’ll fix all the problems, if something’s broken I’ll fix it, I’m never the one that’s broken, I’m never the one that needs fixing.
“I needed to take some medication to help me through, which was very hard for me – that’s a part of society I think where there is that stigma around medication for any kind of mental illness – it’s seen as a sign of weakness that you can’t cope.
“Going into the doctor’s surgery was the hardest thing ever because I’m sitting there and the first thing I said to him was, I don’t really know why I’m here but there’s something wrong, and I want to be honest with you and I told him all my symptoms.”
“With regards to talking to your workmates, and even my friends outside who I go to the gym with, putting it out there was like that whole weight being lifted off me that there’s nothing to be ashamed of.”
Often just being able to talk to someone if you are not feeling yourself can be the first step to seeking the help you need.
“For somebody just to come and have a chat with me may have helped, and I mean a genuine chat, not when somebody gives a throwaway statement like ‘how you going’, the standard answer is ‘yeah, yeah I’m good’. You can see when you’re close friends, if there’s something wrong with them you can tell, and just being genuinely concerned for their wellbeing, it speaks volumes.”
James has since developed an ongoing relationship with Beyond Blue, who provide James with an ongoing opportunity to speak with others who may be walking in the same boots he was in before he reached out for help.
“When it comes to working with Beyond Blue, I find that it helps me on my recovery journey by helping others, and it’s good to know that what I say makes them feel that they’re not alone, and if it just pushes them to go and seek help, it’s all worth it for me.
“I don’t think there’s ever a finish line with a chequered flag saying you’ve come out of this now, you’re better. It’s about managing, so I’ve got a lot of tools in my shed to get me by. And that’s what everyone has to do: find their own tools for their own shed.”
Watch James’ story below.