HALT founders are spreading the word about mental health and suicide within the tradie community

WARENESS: Co-founder Jeremy Forbes created HALT to raise awareness about mental health in the community. Picture: JIM ALDERSEY
WARENESS: Co-founder Jeremy Forbes created HALT to raise awareness about mental health in the community. Picture: JIM ALDERSEY

In 2013 HALT (Hope Assistance Local Tradies) founder Jeremy Forbes was at a funeral for one of his mates, a tradie. After the funeral, at the wake, he was talking to more mates, many of them tradies. There had beenm 5-6 tradies suicide in the mount Alexander shire in the 18 months pire. 

The group had been to five or six funeral in the 18 month prior for men who had suicided. One question kept popping up in the conversations. 

“Who’s next?” 

Mr Forbes said that was the catalyst for him to realise something needed to be done to help the tradie community and stop the culture that was driving more and more men to suicide. 

Nationally the number of people who suicide is double the road toll. In the Dubbo region suicides are three times higher than the road toll for the same area, however both locally and nationally the budget for suicide prevention is significantly lower. 

Mr Forbes was in Dubbo recently to get the HALT message out to the tradie, and the wider community. 

“I’m here because the Dubbo community cares, and I think we all have a role to play in reducing the rates of suicide. 

“There’s a huge economic benefit to having a mentally healthy workplace. We do the physical thing. We need to do the mental health thing,” he said. 

“You never know what’s going on inside each individual person.”

Mr Forbes spent a week in the Dubbo community, taking part in several events around town including the Boy’s Day Out racing meet, a tradies breakfast at Astley’s and the Chamber of Commerce breakfast meeting. 

Mr Forbes said he had been to a lot of communities in Australia but Dubbo was the first that had invited him with a large amount of community groups already organised for him to speak too.

“I’ve really been blown away with the friendliness and the pro-activeness of the community, and we are talking about the possibility of getting a HALT worker in Dubbo at some stage, to continue to message around this region.” 

Mr Forbes said he was in talks with community groups to come back to the Dubbo region sometime during August or September to work with vulnerable sections of the community.

Mr Forbes worked in the industry as a painter and decorator for 25 years before forming HALT. 

He said he had experienced and witnessed the “racist, sexist, misogynistic, domestic violence and drug abuse, Alcohol that were all that part of the tradie culture.”

While small steps were being undertaken to rid the industry of that culture, most changes would come from a generational shift, and that’s why HALT was so important. 

“We need to get rid of the ‘you’ll be right’ culture, it’s not helping anyone at all not to talk about your emotions. It’s something we learnt from our grandfathers - they went to war, some came back with PTSD, they didn’t talk and it really affected them and their families. We know what affect it has and I think it’s really important to have those conversations.”

Mr Forbes co-founded HALT with visual artist Catherine Pilgrim following a conversation about what they could do to raise raise awareness about mental health within the tradie community. 

HALT’s Save your Bacon breakfasts were started at a local hardware store. 

“We thought about where we could have the event where tradies would go, where they would feel socially included. They wouldn’t go to a health centre, most of them don’t, so we thought we would do it in a hardware store.” 

The duo came up with the Save your Bacon slogan and their breakfasts were born. 

Their first breakfast in 2013 had around 40-50 people. Fast forward to 2018 and they have done 200 events across five states. While they started in the hardware stores, they have now branched out and are speaking and holding events at TAFE with apprentices, farming communities, sporting clubs and men’s sheds. 

The foundation continues to move forward with a TED talk to be launched soon, taking the organisation to a global audience. 

If you or somebody you know needs assistance please contact Lifeline on 13 11 14.