I’ve chosen to write about a personal experience today in the hope that it may give you some insight, guidance or at the very least, some food for thought.
But first, some background info….
The inspiration for this came from a realisation I had whilst having a conversation with my 4yr old stepson, and I immediately thought of what Dan and Ed are trying to achieve with TradeMutt.
As we all know, the Coight, the FAF, the Mr Feel Good and now the Einhorn and Bumble Bee Tuna were purposely designed to start conversations around men’s mental health, specifically in the trade industry because of the higher suicide rate of tradies.
What got me wanting to work alongside Dan and Ed was their passion to make a change, their commitment to start a business based around this change and their courage to tackle such a big issue head on and in a way that was going to take a lot of effort.
But I also saw what I perceived to be a flaw in their approach.
To me, they were in danger of becoming just another organisation telling us all how many blokes were killing themselves.
Coming from a meaningful place, but just as well versed in the information provided by the ABS (Australian Bureau of Statistics) as all the other organisations echoing the stats verbatim.
To me, this approach was just going to add more noise in a time when blokes needed more information.
Having been on the verge of taking my own life, what I really needed the most at that time was some tools to use and strategies to get out of such a dangerous headspace.
What I didn’t need was more people telling me the latest statistics on suicide and mental health issues in this country.
So I saw TradeMutt in a different light to these other organisations – I saw a potential for them to effect real change, to create an actual shift and to in turn alter the statistics rather than simply repeating them.
I saw their loud and colourful shirts as a vehicle…as a way to get people talking and to then learn what mental health really is.
To empower guys and get them in a position where they can actually attend to their mental health, no different to how they look after their physical health by being active and watching what they eat.
To set them up to succeed rather than having an expectation that they should simply not experience mental health issues and in turn kill themselves.
Working in partnership with TradeMutt is personal. I want to help them succeed because then I succeed.
I choose to believe that version of me who was stuck and thinking “life is too hard so I should probably end it” was in that position for a reason – to experience first hand what it is like to be in that much pain but to then find out what it takes to get out of it and then share that.
Unfortunately, someone by the name of Dan couldn’t find his way out of his pain so he ended it in the only way he knew how.
Fortunately, he was a mate of Dan and Ed’s and they found a way to turn a great negative into an equally great a positive.
Through their work, I’ve been fortunate to work with a few really great blokes who otherwise would not have reached out and asked for help if it wasn’t for these shirts.
Together, we have been able to show them the way out instead of them making a permanent decision based on a temporary emotion.
We’ve been able to engage with young apprentices and old hands alike, letting them all know that they all have mental health and if they don’t do certain things to look after it, they’ll find themselves in trouble.
The shirts have provided the awareness, but then I’ve been given a chance to provide blokes in Struggletown those tools and strategies I alluded to earlier, and that’s something I’ll forever be grateful for.
So, back to the topic of this article…
There I am having a chat with this little guy and it struck me how what I was saying was going to have such a huge influence on his life.
He has no idea about anything at that age – he takes things at face value and has no way of filtering out anything unhealthy or toxic, he’s just a sponge that absorbs it all.
(We all were at one point in our life – our core beliefs are built in our formative years between the ages of 0 and 8.)
Then another thought hit me – imagine if I were still emotionally unhealthy, what would I be imparting onto this fragile and defenceless creature?
What sort of foundation would I have been creating for the future versions of him to stand upon?
What chance would I be giving him to strive and thrive…what tools would I be providing for him to use when he gets bullied at school, had his heart broken or was fired from work.
How was I going to set him up to be great within himself and in turn great for those around him?
Because it will. It happens to all of us and some of us are better equipped than others.
The exact same experience can build or break a person based solely on how they filter, process and then frame the experience in their minds.
They can bend or they can break.
And I’m just so bloody thankful that those past versions of me did the work they did so I’m now not unknowingly passing on all of my doubts, fears, insecurities and unhelpful thinking styles to this or any other child.
And I’m also thankful that while wearing a TradeMutt shirt that says “This is a conversation starter” on the back of it, I’m in a position to have healthy conversations with blokes that come up for a chat.
So what’s the purpose of this article?
I guess I just wanted to give you some background on who I am, how I’ve come to write these blog pieces for TradeMutt and to share with you some personal realisations I’ve had recently.
Something I discuss with my clients is “you can’t be there for others if you’re not ok yourself” and I think that’s what this is really saying.
Before you throw on a TradeMutt shirt and put yourself in a position to engage with someone that may be a bit fragile, sensitive or vulnerable, check your own emotional health and wellbeing first.
A personal philosophy I live by is “I cant ask people to do things I’m not willing or prepared to do myself” as it creates self-accountability and keeps me genuine and authentic.
I ask that before you promote the idea of seeking help to others, you first make sure that you’re practicing what you preach.
I love the expression “When the tide comes in, all ships rise.”
I feel the tide is coming in and the TradeMutt and MyndFit ships are rising, but they’re doing so in order to help you and your mates rise as well.
* Next article explores what “getting help” looks like and what’s involved in the process.
Nick Sutherland is an ex recon soldier turned mental health practitioner and advocate who is on a new mission to educate men on how to create and maintain a positive state of mind. Nick is also the founder of MyndFit and is available in person or by Skype.
0448 339 662