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Wayne Schwass talks about football, his battle with mental health and his work with Puka Up.
Wayne Schwass. Since capturing Australia’s attention as one of the most successful football players in AFL history, Wayne Schwass has gone on to make a name for himself in more ways than one. After 282 AFL games across 15 seasons, Wayne has established himself as a highly respected AFL broadcaster on TV, radio, print, and online. In addition to his work within the sporting field, Wayne has also become a passionate advocate for mental health awareness. In this episode of Master Plumbers Radio, he talks about football, his battle with mental health and his work with Puka Up.
If you or someone you know needs help, visit www.pukaup.com.au/help
Daniel: Welcome to Master Plumbers Radio. My name is Daniel Carroll, and today my guest is Wayne Schwass. Since capturing Australia’s attention as one of the most successful football players in AFL history, Wayne Schwass has gone on to make a name for himself in more ways than one. Born in New Zealand and raised in Warrnambool, Western Victoria, Wayne Schwass began playing Aussie Rules Football at the age of 10. But with his undeniable talent and passion, it’s not long before he was recruited to join AFL. So in 1986, Wayne began playing for the North Melbourne Football Club. From here, Wayne went from strength to strength, quickly becoming one of the most highly rated players in AFL history. Wayne played 282 games at the elite level for 14.5 years, both with the North Melbourne Football Club and the Sydney Swans. Since retiring in 2002, Wayne has established himself as a highly respected AFL broadcaster on TV, radio, print, and online. In addition to his work within the sporting field, Wayne has also become a passionate advocate for mental health awareness. Welcome, Wayne.
Wayne: Thanks, Daniel.
Daniel: Before we get into the great work you’ve been doing in the mental health space and with your charity Puka Up, I’d like to talk a little bit about your life before that. Born in New Zealand and raised in Warrnambool, what was your life like growing up, and how’d you find football?
Wayne: I found footy by default because my dad was a cricketer, and I remember watching his last training session for the cricket season. Then not long after that, saw these guys come out with silly-looking jumpers and footy shorts on and just sat there mesmerized at the age of 10 and said to dad, that day, I said, “I wouldn’t mind playing this game of footy?” and spent 14 years growing up in Warrnambool. It was a great place to grow up and I had a really good childhood.
Daniel: At North Melbourne, you played 282 games, as I said before, at that elite level spanning 15-year career, ten at North Melbourne and five with the Sydney Swans. You also joined a very select group of winning best and fairests at multiple clubs. I imagine that between the start and finish of your football career, the rigors of the top-level football would somehow have changed from the start to the end.
Wayne: 100%. We had full-time jobs when I first started, as well as playing footy, trained twice a week played, on the weekend and had a recovery run. And then by the time that I’d finished, I was a full-time football player, had no other occupation outside of that, and we were a five days a week plus a game. So the transformation from when I started to where I finished probably went through three different iterations, and it was a good experience.
Daniel: And it was during this time playing football that you were diagnosed with depression.
Wayne: Yeah, 9th of August, 1993. It was a pivotal moment in my life because that was the beginning of a journey that I’ve been on ever since. I remember the 26th of July just as vividly because that was a Monday night, and I had a breakdown in the car on my way home from training. And I went through the same thing every day for two weeks before my wife thankfully encouraged me to go and see the doctor, and I did that, and on the 9th of August 1993, she, I and my doctor, sat in a room for 45 minutes and he diagnosed me with depression. That was the beginning of a fairly challenging 12 years for me.
Daniel: Geez, I can imagine. In my research for this interview, I had a look on the Internet. There’s a few, is a pretty good documentary, which I’ll touch on a little bit later, but I saw a video on a North Melbourne website. Where you responded to a tweet that you put out in 2017.
Daniel: I think it was. And for the people listening, the picture at the conclusion of the-
Daniel: ’96 Grand Final. Being number two, Wayne was first called up onto the premiership dias to receive his premiership medallion and receiving that from Captain Blood, Jack Dyer, for those of you who don’t know, standing arms out-stretched, premiership medallion hanging around your neck and just achieved a goal that many people looking at footballers would only love to do, and yet below that picture was the words, and I’ll quote, “This is what suicidal looks like, The fake smile, act happy, celebrating premiership success with the North Melbourne football club in 1996. Truth was, incredibly suicidal, looking for my wife in the crowd because I wanted to end my life. Only two people knew in a crowd of 95,000: my wife and my GP.” That’s a very, very brave message. Tell us about that day.
Wayne: I don’t see it as brave, Daniel, to be honest with you. It’s just the truth. I shared that because I want people to understand that mental health conditions and suicide can affect any one of us. You can be a premiership player, you can be reasonably well paid, you can be doing something that very few people get the opportunity to do, but that doesn’t mean that you don’t or aren’t exposed with mental health conditions. And on that particular day, it’s a great moment in my life. I love it, and I have fond memories of it. But the reality is that I was three years into my diagnosis by that stage. It had morphed into depression, anxiety, and obsessive-compulsive disorder. So I had three concurrent mental health conditions which were wreaking havoc on every area of my life. Yet, I was able to go out on the biggest day of my sporting career, and become a premiership player, and have a reasonably good game, but I used that photo because it’s really important that people understand that material possessions and money have nothing to do with happiness, because I had all of the things that you would think or assume would make you happy, yet I was miserable. And I was thinking about how I can end my life, and that was a struggle that I was in for four and a half years.
Daniel: And just doing my maths, there, 96 minus a couple of years, you won two best and fairest at North Melbourne at that time.
Daniel: And for people that don’t follow football that closely, there’s a man by the name of Wayne Carey who at that time was at the peak of his powers, and you won a club best and fairest in front of him. So just goes to show you how you can still be performing at a high level while dealing with other issues.
Wayne: Yeah, I’m really glad you’ve said it that way because that’s one of the messages that I share with people, that you can achieve anything you want to achieve whilst living with mental health conditions. And I think that’s encouraging for other people. It doesn’t have to stop your life. It doesn’t have to prevent you from achieving what it is that you want to do or would like to pursue. But if I had my time again, I’d do things very differently.
Daniel: I’ve played a little bit of football at a much lower level than what you’ve been able to achieve, but I know what you mean about, or I can understand having to hold onto some of these things because of the stigma and everything else that’s attached. One of the things that you talk about a lot with Puka, your work at Puka Up is the #thestigmastopswithme. How important is that for people to understand that these sort of things exist and the stigma needs to break down for people to move forward?
Wayne: Look, I think the vast majority of people accept and respect the fact that these conditions exist. We need to, we need to be very careful, and we need to be respectful enough to acknowledge that these are legitimate medical health conditions. Fact. Proven. Research supports it. It’s irrefutable. These are things that people imagine. These aren’t things that people do for attention, and these aren’t issues or challenges that we can just pull our socks up and get over it, we can snap our fingers and get out of it, and we can put on a smiley face and think happy thoughts and it’s all behind us, because that’s not the reality of it. I wish it was that simple. And the #stigmastopswithme is really important because I lived with so much shame, guilt, and embarrassment for 12 and a half years because of the way that I thought towards myself because I had mental health conditions. And if I’m being really honest, I used to think that mental health conditions were for people that were weak, that had character flaws, that had done something wrong, were bad people that. I mean, that’s such an ignorant and uneducated position. I don’t think that way anymore, but I didn’t respect myself and I was convinced that other people would lose respect for me once they found out that I was living with mental health conditions. So I didn’t say anything. There were only four people in 12 and a half years that knew what I was living with: my wife and three professionals. I never talked to my father, my parents. I never talked to my family, my friends, or my teammates, or coaches. So I hid that behind this paralyzing fear of shame, and that prevented me from getting healthy, from getting well for a long period of my life. And I, you, everybody has an opportunity, but I also think we have a responsibility. We need to stand up, and if stigma exists, it needs to stop because it’s stopping people from getting help. And it’s also potentially a contributing reason why we lose so many people with the issue of suicide. And that’s not right.
Daniel: No, not at all. And in an environment like a footy club, which in the modern day is much like a business, where you get, you probably see the people that you work with more than you do your own family. In an environment like a footy club where there are so many people, teammates, coaches, and everything else, was there any instance over that time where someone noticed that you weren’t quite 100%, or were you that good at been able to mask what was going on?
Wayne: I think it was pretty good. I think I was pretty good at pretending and hiding it. There would be a couple of my teammates, my closest teammates that I think knew something wasn’t right, but we never had a conversation, and I would never have entertained having a conversation with them, because I live in fear every day of what they’d think. I think most of my teammates and coaches just would have thought that I was a moody prick: happy one day, moody the next. Truth of the matter was that I was emotionally and spiritually broken but didn’t know how to deal nor was I dealing with the issues that I was trying to work through. And what made that experience harder was men aren’t meant to be vulnerable. That’s what I grew up with. Men aren’t meant to be soft. We aren’t meant to talk. We aren’t meant to show emotions, and under no circumstances in an AFL environment are you meant to cry or expected to cry. So I didn’t. I can’t tell you the number of times over that 12 and a half year journey that all I wanted to do was cry with my teammates and tell him what I was going through. But I never did. I never took the chance. And what I’ve learnt, Daniel, is the definition of what it means to be a man and masculinity has fundamentally changed for me. I did not show any of those vulnerable emotions for a long period in my life. It nearly killed me because I thought that men weren’t meant to behave that way. So when we deny ourselves the ability to feel, to think, and communicate, to cry, we actually deny ourselves some really important skills and traits that allow us to work through challenging situations. So I talk a lot more now, I’m vulnerable, I’m honest, I cry. And I don’t care what people think because I understand. I’ve learned to appreciate the, for me, having all of those emotions available to me is really important because it allows me to be a whole person. And what drives me every day is that every day in Australia we lose on average eight people a day to suicide and six are men. Six of those suicides every day in Australia are men. Why is that happening? Because we’re living in a world that conditions men to disconnect emotionally because that’s not what a man is meant to do. That’s wrong, and that’s got to change.
Daniel: You mentioned before a couple of things that you’ve changed since the way that you’re able to be more open and talk much more. What sort of coping mechanisms did you have back then to be able to sustain that period of your life? Was football like a bit of an escape, or was-
Wayne: Sometimes but not often. I was diagnosed when I’d played 97 games of footy. I played the remainder of my 282-game career, so I played close to 200 games hiding mental health conditions. And there were rare days where I was engaged, happy, enjoying it, loving the thrill of playing footy. But the majority of the games after being diagnosed, I was isolated, disconnected, and really struggling. And the way that I chose to cope through that challenging period was to self-medicate with alcohol and drugs.
Wayne: Let me be very clear to anyone who’s listening to this. Alcohol is a depressant. It’s a drug. It’s illegal and it’s accepted by the community. That’s okay; I get that. But it’s a drug. And if you’re using alcohol to medicate yourself whilst living with these conditions, trust me, I did a very thorough six-year experiment, it doesn’t work. Marijuana, anything else I could get my hands on, I abused it because I didn’t have the skills or courage to talk to people about it, so I just self-medicated to numb the pain. It doesn’t work.
Daniel: And again, in a footy club situation, that really wouldn’t look too much out of place if you were going out afterwards and having a couple of beers and whatever else.
Wayne: That’s what we did. We played hard on the field and we played hard off the field. And one of the reasons for … I never drank to enjoy the taste of alcohol. I never drank to enjoy the experience, I drank to get absolutely polaxed for two reasons: One, the more I drank, the more my brain stop thinking; and secondly, I drank because it prevented me from showing the emotions that were underneath the surface .And the fear of my teammates and family seeing me cry was paralyzing. So I did everything I could to my show and never did any of that.
Daniel: In 2006, four years after, four years out of your footy career, you went on to to start up the Sunrise Foundation, an organization focused on delivering preventative education programs to secondary school students. How was that?
Wayne: It was fantastic because it was the first time in 15 years that I was being honest. I did a two-page story in the Herald Sun before we launched it. That was the first time in 15 years I told the truth because I got sick of living the lie. I lived a lie for 15 years, and the lie was I hid my mental health conditions.
Daniel: So there would’ve been a lot of people opening that paper and hearing for the first time.
Wayne: Yeah. It was out.
Wayne: And what’s interesting about that decision is that I got control of my life back. I didn’t have to pretend anymore. What people think of me is not my business. I’ve got no control over what people think or say or do. The only thing I have control over is my life and the decisions that I make about it. And it was liberating because it’s-
Daniel: Great weight off the shoulders.
Wayne: Tremendous. And what’s interesting is I lived in fear for that period that people would lose respect for me, they’d judge me, they’d criticize me. And the people that I cared about, who I had relationships with, I was convinced that I’d lose them. I’ve lost three relationships over of the past 25 years. I was convinced that I’d lose every relationship. So what I learnt through that decision to go public was that all the things that I thought I’d lose, I didn’t lose, but I carried that fear with me for 15 years, convinced that that’s what I would lose. It’s not worth it.
Daniel: As part of the Sunrise Foundation. It was more than 5,000 students that participated in the foundation’s Head Smart Program. And then you went onto a corporate sales role with Telstra, I believe.
Wayne: Yeah, I did.
Daniel: However your passion for health and wellbeing ultimately drew you back to mental health and the advocacy behind that. And it was that passion that led you to create Puka Up, a social enterprise, focusing on mental health, emotional well-being, and importantly suicide prevention. The Puka Up vision is to create the environments for every person to have authentic and genuine conversations about mental health and emotional well-being. Tell us about after the first with the Sunrise Foundation, have a little bit of time off, what got you back in?
Wayne: With all due respect to my previous employer, I sat with my boss after five years of working with them and said, I can go and sell any form of technology to a business, and it helps them do business better, but it hasn’t changed anyone’s life. And I’m a person that is very passionate. I’m a person that needs to do something that has purpose. And my former sales job, there was no passion, there was no purpose. And I was given an opportunity from my old chairman from the Sunrise Foundation. He put the opportunity in front of me and said that he would like to support me to bring, Puka Up to life. And the reality is that that is what I’m most passionate about, and that is, I can sit here right now, Daniel, at the age of 50 and say that the reason why I’m on this earth is to do the work I do today, because it’s my purpose. Footy was a chapter that was a part of my life, and I continue to write those chapters, and hopefully I continue to write many more chapters. Football used to define who I was. Football is a chapter written a long time ago, but football has given me the platform to do the real work and it’s the real reason why I’m here. And that’s to lead, Puka Up. That’s to prevent people from ending their lives, and that is to fundamentally shift the focus away from people getting into crisis through education, so that one day we live in a world where people are able to manage their well-being proactively as opposed to waiting until they get really unwell.
Daniel: And you can definitely … Your passion comes out in everything that you see through Puka Up, whether it’s TV appearances, I follow you on social media. And I mentioned before I saw the documentary, the Puka Up-
Wayne: Grand tour.
Daniel: Grand tour. I recommend it. And you don’t have to have a passion for bike riding or anything like that. You just have a watch and just type in “Puka Up documentary,” is what I searched for on Google, and it came up. And it was entertaining. It was a few laughs and a few jokes and all that sort of stuff, but more than anything, it was very educational for what mental health means for different people. And that goes from there’s people that are high-level business CEO’s right down to people that just like going out and riding their bike on the weekend. Mental health doesn’t discriminate, and watching that documentary. As I said before, it’s people from all ages and all walks of life and that shared their stories on how they or someone that they knew had been dealing with mental health. That extends to the job site as well. So rates of suicide are growing alarmingly among people in construction, young people and older people. The increased emotional and physical strain on the modern tradie coupled with the macho image that they’re expected to maintain is almost creating the perfect storm for people to sort of really have a problem.
Wayne: Yeah, I couldn’t have said that any better. The construction industry, and this is not to point the finger, and I don’t want people to interpret this that I’m blaming anyone, or anybody, or any organization, but the reality is that the construction industry, along with the mining industry, resources industry, even the financial industry, the rates of people that work in those industries that are living with significant mental health conditions, that are in crisis, that are thinking about taking their life or are taking their life are disproportionately higher to the rest of the general population. So it’s an issue, and it’s an issue everywhere. And I’m incredibly passionate, Daniel, about challenging the definition of masculinity and the narrative that a lot of males, myself included, have been fed for decades. And the reason why I want to challenge that and why I think we need to re-frame what it means to be a man and the expectation that we have of ourselves and other men is because, as I said before, the end of every 24-hour period, six of the eight suicides in Australia are men because we grow up in a world that expects men to be strong and stoic, not to be vulnerable, not to cry, not show emotions. What we’re actually doing is we’re limiting men’s ability to stay connected emotionally. It’s not weak to be vulnerable. It’s not weak to cry. It’s not weak to ask for help. It’s not weak to put your hand up and seek professional help. And if we don’t challenge the messaging around that, we cannot realistically expect to address the issue within the construction industry, but to address this issue across the country, the numbers of people living with these conditions is going up. The number of people taking their lives is going up. We had 3,128 in 2017. The year before, it was 2,866. And don’t think that this is a male issue. Men are three times more likely to achieve the outcome of ending their life. But three times as many women are attempting. So this is a male and female issue. It’s a human being issue. And I can respect people can have different opinions, but if we don’t create spaces for men in particular to come into and to talk about what it is that’s causing them concern, causing them some stress, upsetting, is painful, is impacting their life negatively, then what we’re actually doing is we’re limiting their ability to connect emotionally and get the right help that they need to help them through their crisis.
Daniel: In addition to the stats you just mentioned before, the 3,128 from 2017, I saw in my research that this very, very alarming figure that 20 times that amount attempted, so that’s 65,000 people.
Wayne: 65 and a half thousand people attempt to end their lives every year in Australia. That’d make it the fifth largest town in Victoria and the 27th largest town in Australia.
Daniel: Wow. And it’s currently the leading cause of death. Suicide is the leading cause of death in people age 15 to 44. That is crazy.
Wayne: Yep. If that is not alarming enough for individuals, for communities, for businesses and for this entire country to sit back and go, “We’ve got to address this,” then I don’t know what is. Having said all of that, Puka Up’s focuses is on addressing it because it needs to change. We’re losing too many valuable people within our communities, within our businesses, within our country that we believe don’t have to end their life. We’ve got to do something proactively that gives these people the opportunity and the space for them to get the appropriate help that they need much earlier.
Daniel: So going back to the work site, there’s a couple things that we need to consider. I’ll ask a two-part question. Number one, what are the warning signs? What sort of things can we be looking out for to help our mates?
Wayne: So warning signs or signs and symptoms of somebody being under emotional stress, and under emotional stress could be they’re stressed, lack of sleep agitated. They might be coming to work late. They might be going for longer lunches. They might be leaving work earlier. They may not even be coming to work. They might be increasing their alcohol intake, could be confrontational, could be argumentative, could be isolating, normally engaged, normally as someone who can be part of a conversation is starting to disengage from that, normally go out with other tradies or mates, not returning phone calls, not replying to emails or text messages, not going to social settings. They’re all things that could potentially indicate somebody may be under emotional stress. And I think they’re things that we can look out for. But I think having the ability to identify something that may give you reason to think that something’s not right is half of what should happen. The next half of it, and this is just as important if not more important is how do I have this conversation with someone that I’m concerned about? And it’s got to be done in such a way that your language, your tone, the way that you deliver the message is supportive and nonjudgmental because if we try to call someone out, it may be it may have quite a negative impact on how that person responds. It really needs to be about creating a space which is safe, that invites the person that you’re worried about into a conversation, and it may be something as simple, “Aye, Daniel, let’s go and have a coffee. Mate, is everything okay? I’m not sure what the problem is, but you seem to be a little bit different. If you want to talk to me about it, I just want you to know that I’m here to talk to. I may not have the answers, but I just want you to know it’s important for me that you know, if you want to talk to somebody that you can trust, I’m prepared to listen.” And that’s a really simple example of how we can begin these conversations, because what it’s doing, it’s giving you, the person that I’m worried about, the option to choose whether or not you want to come in the conversation. I’m not criticizing you. I’m not putting you down. I’m not telling you that you’re weak. I’m not telling you to harden up and be a man because that is destructive language. If I use that language, I may be manifestly making the situation for a person I’m concerned about, especially men, worse because I’m telling him that he’s weak and he’s soft. So I don’t use any of that. I use language and questions that hopefully create a space where the person that I’m concerned about can trust me enough to talk to me about it.
Daniel: I can see that being a pretty delicate subject and something that’s really hard to navigate considering most guys out there, girls as well, you know, they have their little bit of banter, “That’s weak as piss,” or whatever. You probably don’t understand the weight of what your language can do to someone else.
Wayne: Correct 100%. I think something that may have no meaning to us-
Daniel: Yeah. You might not know what you’re saying.
Wayne: But that could have a incredibly negative impact. And, again, I’ll go back to my own experience. When I lived with my mental health conditions, you and I could have been having this discussion, and it could’ve been incredibly positive, but there might’ve been a look that you gave me, a word that you used, or message that you gave me, which that’s the only thing that I heard or saw because my radar when I was emotionally unwell was so heavily skewed to any negativity signs or messages that I was getting back. So the language and messages that people would give me unintentionally had an incredibly negative impact on me because I just, I already saw myself as a failure. So I’m not an expert but I’ve got a lived experience and I work in this space. Language, tone, delivery are really important because all I want to do is I want to facilitate a space for somebody I care about to be able to come into and talk to me about whatever they want to talk to me about. And I have these conversations with a lot of male mates. That wouldn’t have happened 10 years ago because my male mates and even complete strangers, I won’t judge them. All I’m interested in is how can I support this person who may be going through a tough time? We’ve all got the same opportunity.
Daniel: You tweeted something recently that caught my eye: “We book our vehicles in for servicing because we don’t want them to break down. It makes sense to book ourselves in for servicing too so we won’t break down. We prioritize the health of our cars. It’s time to start doing that with our own health.”
Wayne: I believe in it.
Daniel: It’s so true, because I think the closest I come to a annual checkup is when I go to the dentist to get me teeth checked out. That’s about it.
Wayne: Yep. And the reason why I do that is I’m trying to make … I’m trying to uncomplicate what can be a very complicated set of conditions. And I’ve delivered 15 years of presentations all over the country. And I ask these questions all the time. We invest into our physical health because we know it’s important. And the two overriding reasons why we all invest at some point in the past, or we are now, into our physical health is we’re preventing sickness and we don’t want to die any sooner than we have to. So human beings understand physical health is important. We apply the same strategies and principles to our cars. If we don’t put it in for a six-month service, tires will wear, brakes might start to rub. And if we don’t invest into a preventative service, the car could break down. So our attitude and application to our physical health and the health of our cars is the same. But having done this for 15 years, and this is not to be critical of people, between 5% and 15% of people are doing the same for their mental health and emotional well-being as they are with their vehicles and their physical health. Part of our job is to help more people understand that it’s just as important that we do the same thing for our physical health as we do our mental health. Why would we ignore our emotional health? If we don’t invest into staying healthy emotionally, having strategies and tools that allow us to have good mental health, and we ignore that or we don’t understand that that’s started to suffer, what will happen is we will break down, and I’ve broken down. I don’t want to break down again, so I invest into it.
Daniel: What sort of things does that involve? Is it like diet, exercise?
Wayne: So I’m coming up 400 days of not touching alcohol.
Daniel: Oh, really?
Wayne: It’s a depressant. It doesn’t allow me to get good sleep. I need quality sleep because that allows me to rest, my mind and body to recover. Diet is important. I eat a predominantly plant-based diet. Now, that’s just my choice. Other people can make their own choices, but it’s a healthy diet. Don’t drink alcohol. I prioritize sleep. I’m a cyclist, so I ride as much as I can. And the most important thing in my checklist and toolbox is that I talk to key people in my network of support: my Dad, my wife, and my GP, and a couple of my close mates. And I talk to them all the time, when things are going well and when things aren’t going well. And also factor into that is that last year I had two really challenging bouts of anxiety, so I went back on medication. They’re the things that I will always prioritize because I know those things give me the best opportunity of being healthy and well. And it’s a matter of that works for me, but other people need to find what works for them. And once you’ve found what works for them, keep doing it because that preventative strategy is a much better thing to invest into as opposed to reacting when the shit hits the fan.
Daniel: I know if you need to become fitter, you go out and exercise. If you need to lose weight, you manage your diet. I’ve read a lot of articles recently about the uptake in people taking part in things like meditation, whatever, to almost exercise their mind and just to get them thinking differently, to put a little bit of space between what they’ve done and what they need to do. Have you had any experience with that? And-
Daniel: … has it worked?
Wayne: Meditation, I have. Yep. I think they’re all valuable tools that people should at least give a try to. It may or may not work. I think it’s worth exploring all of the available things that we can do for ourselves, yoga, meditation, mindfulness. There’s even a new strategy called tapping, where you’re using your fingers to tap pressure points all over your body, which the research is now starting to support and show that that’s having a fantastic impact on people who are living with anxiety. So, again, I can’t tell people what to do, Daniel, but I can certainly encourage them, if you aren’t investing into your mental health and emotional well-being, my question is, why? What’s holding you back? What’s preventing you? And then more importantly, what can you do for yourself? It’s taken me 25 years to get to the position that I’m in today. I manage my well-being. I don’t live with mental health conditions. Even my own internal narrative has changed because managing my well-being puts me in control of my health. And I’ve also, I’ve come to realize and accept that my health ultimately physically and emotionally, it’s my responsibility. So I’ve got to take charge of that. So I’ve just made decisions and continue to make decisions that give me the best opportunity to be happy and healthy.
Daniel: So in relation to our audience on a work site, you’ve got two, I guess breaking it down for two messages for two different types of people. You’ve got the people out there like on the ground floor that are on the tools doing the everyday stuff, and you’ve also got the people at the other end who are managing the businesses. Have you got any advice for, number one, people that are all the workers and then, two, the people that are responsible for the well-being of those people?
Wayne: Yep. I’ve got a couple of answers. One is to anyone who’s listening to this conversation who’s going through a tough time right now, I want to just talk to them for a second. I appreciate and admire how tough it is because it’s a difficult shitty experience sometimes if you’re dealing with these type of conditions. But your ability to get up, to go to work, to do your job and deal with whatever it is that you’re dealing with takes a lot of strength and courage, and I admire you for that. If it’s having an impact in your life, my strong advice is go and seek help. Don’t do what I did and ignore your health for six years, self-medicate through alcohol and drugs because it doesn’t work. Put your hand up or go and find someone that you can trust and ask for help, because once you get help, you can start to get healthy and well again-that is the most important thing. And then to the people who are managing teams of people, invest into them. What question, what messages am I sending as a leader? Am I inclusive? Am I supportive? Or am I regurgitating things that may have been said to you as you were working your way through the industry? “Toughen up. Man up. Don’t be weak. Don’t be soft. Don’t be a girl. Don’t be a pussy.” They’re not helpful, and it doesn’t help somebody who might be going through a really difficult situation. So if you’re a manager or a business owner, you’re a leader. What type of leader are you? Do you want your people to feel inspired and supported? Do you want to help then through a difficult situation? Or do we want to be part of the problem? And that’s a question those people need to answer.
Daniel: Fantastic. I really appreciate your taking the time out to chat with us today. All the best with whatever comes next with Puka Up, and let’s hope we can all work together to bring those numbers down.
Wayne: I appreciate the opportunity to have a talk with you, Daniel, and I appreciate and commend the Master Plumbers Association for beginning to open up this conversation for the people that work in your industry. It’s fantastic. Well done.