JULIAN Leeser remembers the signs when he knew his father was not well, but he didn’t say a thing.
The Berowra MP is encouraging people to have the courage to ask someone if they are OK if they are showing signs of depression or contemplating suicide.
Mr Leeser talked about his father’s suicide during his federal parliament maiden speech in 2016, and brought up his father’s death again while attending a Mates In Construction mental health workshop in West Pennant Hills.
“He was a great car parker and very proud, but then didn’t seem to care how he parked his car and started giving us very long hugs,” Mr Leeser said.
“We were a family that always hugged each other, but these were very long hugs.
“I knew something had changed in my dad’s behaviour but he’s my father, I didn’t want to say anything. It was a bit embarrassing.
“The thing I regret the most is that I didn’t say anything. I didn’t stop and say ‘are you okay Dad?’
“The reason I wanted to get involved in this space is because we have an alarming suicide rate.
“My father was 55, and I don’t want other families going through the upheaval and loss that we went through as a result of my father’s death.”
Mr Leeser was invited to the workshop by Mates In Construction, which has run several workshops for NorthConnex employees.
He praised the organisation for the amazing work they do at construction sites across Australia.
“The construction sector has a suicide rate higher than any other sector in the economy. It is 71 per cent higher, which is quite extraordinary,” Mr Leeser said.
“There are 1500 people working here at NorthConnex and 400 of them have done the training I’m about to do with Mates in Construction.
“We need to have more people in the community who are able to see and recognise the signs of people who might be contemplating suicide, and know what to do if they see someone who could be contemplating suicide.”
Mates in Construction case manager Carolyn Kelso said the workshops have delivered good outcomes for NorthConnex staff.
“From that training, we have dealt with a number of individuals who need extra help or advice, even people have come up to ask how they can help someone in the community,” she said.
“It is like a domino effect. It doesn’t stay just at this worksite, but goes out to the wider community.”
Ms Kelso encouraged people to speak to their family, friends and colleagues about mental health.
“Just start up a conversation. We educate people what to look for, and if you have a gut feeling, do something about it,” she said.
“Have a conversation, because that could stop a suicide.”
NorthConnex work is running smoothly is expected to be completed by the December 2019 deadline.
Currently 3.3km of 22.5km of tunneling has been completed, and the project has not gone over budget.
“Pennant Hills Road has been voted the worst road in the country, so (NorthConnex) is a particularly important piece of infrastructure,” Mr Leeser said.
“You only need to be on Pennant Hills Road at any day of the week to see what a shocker it is, and how much of an impact NorthConnex is going to make to our community.”