Jeremy Forbes was a painter and decorator for many years. But, following the suicide of a fellow-tradie, he took a good hard look at himself and the underbelly of toxic culture he knew was widespread across the trades.

These days Jeremy is no longer painting and decorating. Through his organisation, HALT (Hope, Assistance, Local Tradies), he works full-time to undermine the dark side of being a tradie and to build awareness of the many supports available.

He presents to groups such as BSSC’s VET Building/Construction and VET Integrative Technologies – people who will one day be the very tradies he is most concerned for.

“What I am going to tell you could save your life,” he said to the students.

“The tradie culture has long been to just watch people who are struggling. To not intervene as they spiral out of control. To take a ‘she’ll be right’ approach. Usually the person who is struggling is unlikely to say much for fear of being bullied, laughed at, or even losing his job.

“I was part of this—enmeshed in the behaviours. But, at the funeral for that mate who suicided, we all stood around and asked, ‘Who’s next’?”

This event was a catalyst for Jeremy. He realised he needed help and guidance. But he also realised he had no idea who to turn to or what services were out there.

Wellbeing Week was the perfect opportunity for BSSC students to hear from Jeremy about issues that are widespread across tradie culture; to be confronted by the shocking suicide statistics for Central Victoria and to consider the way, as future tradies, they can look after themselves and their mates.

Want to know more: check out Jeremy’s TED talk: