When it comes to being a bloke, there’s an unwritten code: be strong, tough, stoic, and, above all, unemotional. Now, let’s add another layer to that: being a tradie. The tradie culture has long shied away from showing emotions, shedding tears, or discussing mental struggles.
Long hours, gruelling physical tasks, and relentless weather conditions can wear anyone down, often leaving tradies feeling drained, disconnected from loved ones, and caught in a work-life imbalance. Ignoring those issues can manifest in destructive ways, from gambling and domestic violence to substance abuse and unhealthy escapes.
Dan Pollard, founder, Fergus, said, “Mental health is a topic I’m passionate about. I’ve lost friends and seen fellow tradies go through some really tough times. So, I take this issue to heart because, when we don’t get it right, we lose more than just our businesses. We can lose our relationships and, tragically, even our lives. That’s why it’s crucial to address mental health in our line of work.”
The stakes are high when mental health goes unaddressed. Here are Fergus’ seven tips to support tradies’ mental health:
Tip 1: Speak up, mate
Here’s a hard fact: according to Mates in Construction, construction workers are six times more likely to die from suicide than an accident at work. (1) Don’t bottle it up. If something’s weighing you down, don’t keep it to yourself. Chat with your mate during a break, or call a helpline like Lifeline or Mates in Construction.
Tip 2: Keep an eye out for your mates
Safety is teamwork, and so is mental wellbeing. If you see a mate struggling, don’t turn a blind eye. Asking a simple “You alright?” can be the first step in making a big difference.
Tip 3: Limit alcohol and substance use
We all enjoy a cold one, but moderation is key and a clear mind is better than a foggy buzz. Try swapping out a beer for a book or a movie night with friends or family. If you are really struggling to steer away from alcohol in a social setting, give a zero-alcohol option a go.
Tip 4: Take a break
We often think pushing through the pain is the answer, but that’s a quick ticket to burnout city. We all need a breather, whether it’s a weekend off or even a longer break, and stepping away gives your mind a chance to reset.
Tip 5: Get physical and eat right
After a long day, the last thing you want to do is exercise. But physical activity releases endorphins, your body’s natural mood lifters. Even a simple 30-minute walk after work can help clear your head.
It’s tempting to grab fast food for lunch, but your body—and mind—need better fuel. Poor diet contributes to poor mental health, and a balanced meal with fruits, veggies, and lean protein can boost your mood and energy. So, next time you reach for that meat pie, maybe opt for a chicken salad instead. Or, if you don’t mind leftovers, try packing a portion of your dinner for lunch the following day.
Tip 6: Don’t ignore the doc
You wouldn’t ignore a leaky pipe, so don’t ignore signs of mental strain. Regular check-ups with your doctor can help you catch mental health issues early on. General practitioners (GPs) can also refer you to mental health professionals. Don’t wait until you hit ‘rock bottom’ to seek help.
Tip 7: Keep learning
Knowledge is power, especially when it comes to mental health, so it’s important to arm yourself with the facts. Organisations like Black Dog Institute have resources that can help you understand what you’re going through. And, you’ll be better equipped to support a mate who might be struggling, too.
Dan Pollard said, “Mental health is a real issue, and we’re the ones who can change the culture around it. Let’s embrace the stress that comes with growth, take ownership of our wellbeing, and be the leaders in our industry.
“Remember, it’s okay to struggle, but it’s not okay to suffer in silence. A healthy team is a productive team. When you’re feeling your best, you do your best work. It’s as simple as that.”