After suddenly losing his brother to suicide six years ago, Switched On Group (SOG) subbie Paul Lynch is sharing his story and experiences in the hope he can raise greater awareness of mental health. Paul is calling on Kiwi blokes to have courageous conversations with their mates about the hard stuff.
The number of people taking their own life in New Zealand is continuing to rise. In 2017 just over 600 people died by suicide in our country, almost double the number who died in car accidents.
Paul, who runs a carpet and vinyl laying business in Christchurch, has been a valued subbie for Switched On for the past six years.
Following the tragic loss of his brother Brett, Paul says his life took a very unexpected turn.
At first he experienced an out of control, alcohol-fuelled downward spiral. This was followed by the realisation he needed to lift himself up and deal properly with the tragic loss of his brother.
Paul set about learning all he could about why people reach a crisis point where they feel suicide is their only option, and he started to write about what he was learning for his own therapy. He says it then dawned on him that what he was learning may also help others.
In September 2017 Paul published his book, Suicide; Aftermath & Beyond, on the fourth anniversary of Brett’s death.
Paul believes the most important tool for any tradie is the one that sits on their shoulders – not in their toolbox.
He says health and safety tends to focus on physical safety but pays little attention to mental health and wellbeing.
Paul now has weekly wellbeing toolbox talks with his staff, where they have an opportunity to discuss issues Kiwi tradies tend to keep to themselves. Through his willingness to share his own story, Paul says he has found his staff feel more comfortable discussing their own personal struggles.
As Paul says, this is not about ‘touchy feely’ stuff but about sharing some of the burdens of life we all experience from time to time. It’s also about sharing them before they become a load that is too heavy to bear.
Switched On Trade Services Manager Ken Howat says Paul’s personal commitment to raising mental health issues and finding something positive in his brother’s tragic death is ongoing and evolving.
“Paul receives regular requests to share his journey and recently delivered a very powerful toolbox talk to all SOG staff. Paul’s book is available for staff to read and we’ve also shared his story with our other contractors. Sadly, tradies continue to be overrepresented in suicide statistics and Paul is doing his bit to change this,” Ken says.
Copies of Paul’s book can be ordered from www.aftermathandbeyond.co.nz(external link)