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From ‘Angry Scotsman’ to coach for tradies

Tradie mental health

Aaron Huey knew from a young age he’d be involved with tradie life. Born and raised in Scotland; Aaron became a chippy at just 15 after leaving school.

“I had no interest in staying in school, so I bailed,” he said.
“There was always something around the satisfaction of building something that I always wanted to be a part of.
“The thought of going to uni, working at a desk or even joining the services never really interested me at all.”


Once he was fully qualified in carpentry and joinery, the idea of venturing Down Under became more tempting than ever.

“My uncle and aunt moved to Australia, and they were encouraging me to come over to get work and do my apprenticeship here,” Aaron said.

“But I was a bit green then, but I always had it in the back of my head.
“One of my old bosses told me he had the opportunity to come to Australia but didn’t, and he’s always regretted it.
“Home’s always there. If it works: great. If it doesn’t, you can always go back.”

It was with that mentality that Aaron eventually packed his things and traded the Scottish Highlands for the Sydney beaches.

Coast to coast

Aaron acclimatised quickly to the Aussie tradie life. His skill had him climbing the carpentry ladder quickly in Sydney.

“I moved up the ladder quite a bit to site manager and site foreman for about three of four years,” Aaron said.
“I knew Australia was always gonna be the place for me. The laid back lifestyle suited me to a tee.
“That, and I was sick of the rain and miserable weather back in Scotland.”

The tradie life had Aaron chugging along nicely. However, two major events in his life led him to re-evaluate what mattered to Aaron.

“I lost a friend back home in Scotland out of the blue, and that was my first real battle with mental health,” he said.
“Then, it happened here in Australia as well. I lost two friends within the span of two years.

“Not only did it affect me mental health-wise, but it made me question what I was doing with my life and did I really want to keep working six days a week and 14-hour days as a site manager.

“By this time, I had two young kids … so I wanted to find something different and I found coaching.”

A helpful hand

A counselling development weekend helped Aaron get the lay of the land when it came to coaching. It inspired him to take up life coaching, while also remaining as a site manager, for about a year.

“It helped me personally with my own anxiety and anger management,” Aaron said.
“It dawned on me that there’s things here no one has ever taught me on-site.
“Why you get angry, how to manage your anxiety and why we do certain things.”

Not only did Aaron notice a change within, but also found his fellow tradies were getting on-board with a more mentally healthy approach to day-to-day work.

“I used to be referred to as ‘the angry Scotsman’ because I was always the smallest and the loudest guy on-site,” he said.
“Then later on they noticed how much more chill I was about stuff.
“If something happens, like the concrete doesn’t come, we can deal with it.”

The more Aaron began implementing positive changes in his own work-life, the more he realised he could help other tradies do the same.

“I need to give back because this has helped me as a father, as a friend, and a better site foreman,” he said.

“I looked at all the angry boys who’d go home to a six-pack and a dog because they had no relationship with their families or kids.

“I know I’m not the only person suffering in silence here.”

Building a healthy future

Tradie mental health continues to be a conversation dominating the industry. Many associations, unions and businesses are doing their best to ensure tradies are healthy both mentally as well as physically.

Aaron said while initiatives like antidepression dogs and suicide awareness discussions helped in their own way, he felt the issue could use more of a tradie touch.

“What I was finding when I was offering my services to places that they’ve taken to it better than if someone coming from an office who’s never spent a day on site,” Aaron said.

“Having walked the walk and talk the talk, I think that’s a better response than just somebody coming down from an office.”

Image: cineberg/stock.adobe.com

Paying it forward

Much like complex issues on the worksite, navigating mental health isn’t straightforward. Aaron’s doing a lot of growing in the 20 years (12 in Australia) he’s been a tradie, and his step into coaching has left him – and those he’s spoken to – all the better for it.

“I get people telling me that we need more of this on-site,” he said.

“The older guys need to learn just because it’s been the way it is, doesn’t mean it need to be that way – clearly it’s not working for us.
“And these young guys need to learn they’re not invincible.”

As the discussion on tradies mental health remains ever-evolving, Aaron hopes to add his expertise to the conversation.

You can find out more on Instagram @aaron_wd_huey

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