Mental health for men is so hard to tackle. But it’s the most important thing because capable, healthy men make the world a better place.
You put it really well. It’s a point I also like making—that this would be harder if it was potentially a suit coming from Melbourne saying to these tradies: “Ah, come to the local hall and I’ll talk about this!” No fucking way. There’d be no chance. And it’s like anything, it has to come from someone with the same passion, it has to be a tradie who has that shared experience.
I was just talking to a guy at the Do Lectures about domestic violence. And the crimes that divorced fathers commit. And he wants to get a program similar to HALT, which is very humbling, for divorced fathers. There doesn’t seem to be the support services there, and there are a lot of divorced fathers out there. It’s the financial stress. They’re going out and making more money but that money’s now going to their ex-wife and their kids who he never sees, and then he hits the bottle more. All these issues that we can explore, and we can explore them together.
Definitely. Everybody makes it a little easier for everybody else by chipping away at the big problem.
Yeah, we’re not-for-profit. There’s no making money for shareholders. I’m just doing this because I feel there’s a need for it and seems to resonate and work. I also love history by the way. I watch documentary after documentary. My dad would just sit me down and say, “Watch this.”
Great! Good on your dad. Should be more dads like that. You haven’t got kids yet?
Nah. I haven’t got any kids and I recently got the snip as well.
That’s a tough choice, to not have children. Would you ever think of adopting a kid?
My wife’s just turned 42. I’m 40. Probably not. Legacy has been a big word bandied about this weekend and I think HALT will be my legacy. When I die, I die. I don’t fear death. I’m in a really good spot where I don’t fear it at all. Pain doesn’t bother me. So when I go, I go. I have my own beliefs about before and after life. But for me this is the legacy.
So that makes you a bit more comfortable with your own death?
Yeah! For sure. It doesn’t bother me stopping the lineage with me. And when I go, I go. I can’t do much about it!
I hope you hang around for a bit!
Oh don’t worry, I plan to hang around!
[Two years later].
Last time we spoke it was May 2013. What’s happened to HALT in the last two years?
It’s been a huge two years. When we spoke, I had done two breakfasts and I wasn’t sure where it was going to go from there. Since then we’ve been picked up by Bendigo Community Health Service, which is a charity, and I’ve spent the last 14 months with them. I think we’re up to 23 brekkies now around Victoria and into southern New South Wales. It’s just going right off, it’s very satisfying.
Great. Why? What’s happening at these brekkies that makes it satisfying?
There’s obviously a lot of stigma attached to mental health in the building industry, that real tough Aussie culture. It’s the “Let’s not talk about it” and “She’ll be all right, mate” attitude which I’ve struggled and lived with for 20 years. HALT events seem to work because it’s actually in the car park of a hardware store where tradies feel comfortable, it’s all free and there are no expectations. We had, I think, 300 at Wagga Wagga, we had 20 guys at St Ives hang around talking for an hour and a half. It’s been awesome.
What spurred you on at the start was not just the hardship that you’d experienced but also the suicides in the communities. Are you seeing that change at all?
It’s hard to notice that change. HALT gives them the opportunity to talk and the information if they need it. It’s hard to actually recognise early intervention and prevention. That being the case, we recently did a brekkie for the council depot workers in Castlemaine—the guys that do the roads, gardens, and maintenance, that crew. They were really open and apparently they had a slight change of culture after that one brekkie.
The feedback about a month later was that guys are actually starting to talk more with their mates. It sounds simple to some but in the building industry, that’s what you want. They struggle to know how to talk to their mates. They worry that if they say something they’ll be judged for it.
You think, Okay, I want to talk to my mate because he’s joking about killing himself, but how do I have that conversation. What will he think, where do I do it? Do I take him out for a beer? Do I take him out for coffee? We only work together.